Learning centres at risk as Government cuts threaten Somerset with 'terrible blow'

PUBLISHED: 17:00 25 October 2017 | UPDATED: 17:01 25 October 2017

The Somerset Skills and Learning centre in Burnham-on-Sea. Picture: Google

The Somerset Skills and Learning centre in Burnham-on-Sea. Picture: Google

Google

A learning provider says it could be forced into a 'radical restructure' after Government funding cuts put the future of six centres at risk.

Community learning provider Somerset Skills and Learning (SS&L) has revealed it may be forced to close six of its centres, potentially including one in Burnham, and make around 50 staff redundant after its funding from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) was cut from £3.5million to £111,000.

The 97 per cent reduction was eased following a partial U-turn by the ESFA which saw it give 75 per cent of the full amount on a transitional basis – but this has still left the company short of around £1million.

SS&L chief executive Susie Simon-Norris said: “We have had to make some very tough decisions over the past few weeks to keep SS&L a going concern.

“A radical restructure has been proposed and this would sadly mean losing almost a third of our staff and closing six centres to reduce our overheads.

“We have no choice – the funding cuts have left us in a very difficult position.

“We also need to drastically reduce our delivery of community learning courses, a terrible blow for Somerset.

“We still don’t think the Government realises that by reducing our funding as it has done, Somerset’s community misses out on vital and unique community education, so we are determined to keep lobbying to have this reinstated.

“We are the only county in the South West to have had our community learning budget stripped – this is unfair to Somerset and something we intend to fight for.”

MORE: Somerset Skills and Learning given lifeline funding

Staff are currently in discussions over their redundancies, although the service will continue to provide apprenticeships and traineeships as well as maths, English, digital skills and business-related courses.

But it will now partner with community organisations to deliver these services.

Ms Simon-Norris added: “We are determined to keep SS&L a going concern for the Somerset community because we provide vital education and learning opportunities, so despite the tough times we are experiencing now, we are going to fight for our survival and aim to come out of this difficult situation stronger and better than ever.”

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