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Graduate programme loses 40% of funding

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Funding for local government’s prestigious graduate development scheme is to be cut by 40%, the Local Government Group has announced.

Reductions in the group’s contribution to the National Graduate Development Programme had been expected, but a final decision on the level of the cut was made last week by the LGG executive.

The decision to cut the programme’s central funding in line with the overall cut to LGG’s funding means the annual expenditure will fall from about £500,000 to £300,000, according to a Local Government Improvement & Development official.

LGC revealed last month that LGID had parted company with Warwick Business School - the partner institution since the founding of the course - and dropped its postgraduate diploma in a drive to save money.

At the time, LGID officials believed the budget could be cut by as much as 50%, but were waiting for a decision.

The story sparked a massive response as former students, employers and other interested parties put forward ideas for the future of the scheme.

Daniel Ratchford, Sutton LBC’s strategic director of environment and leisure, has been involved in the recruitment of graduates since the scheme began. He described it as “fantastic”.

“I’m a huge fan,” he said. “Local government lost out before because many of the really good graduates went on the schemes for the NHS, the police or the civil service instead. We have tipped the balance back a bit.”

Some commentators have argued the lack of a postgraduate diploma would put off the best graduates. One former student told LGC she “would possibly not have applied for the scheme without that element, as it seemed - at the time at least - that to get set up in any career, you needed a postgraduate qualification”.

However, Mr Ratchford said that the importance graduates placed on the qualification was “misplaced”. While the residential sessions at Warwick had allowed students from around the country to come together and share ideas, the accredited diploma was “less important”, he argued.

LGID associate Dennis Skinner said he and his team were looking for “innovative” ways to deliver the programme at a lower cost.

Ideas include more practical and less academic content, such as closer working with the LGG’s peer challenge members, as well as the greater involvement of the private and third sectors.

A decision has yet to be made as to how much of the £319,000 funding for 2011-12 can be spent on training the cohort currently being recruited and due to start the programme in September.

LGID is writing to all of the candidates to explain the situation.

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