Give London full control of skills support programmes, say deputy mayors

Give London full control of skills support programmes, say deputy mayors

City Hall deputy mayors Jules Pipe and Rajesh Agrawal have repeated calls for London to take full control of training and employment support in the capital.

Quizzed by the London Assembly economy committee this week on Sadiq Khan’s record on supporting business, Pipe, whose remit covers skills alongside regeneration and planning, cited City Hall’s takeover of £300 million of adult education funding as a success story.

The budget funds education and training for adults aged 19 and over, and with the new era of City Hall control just getting underway, the Mayor had already introduced important changes, Pipe said.

Courses would be free for adult learners earning less than the London Living Wage, and deaf Londoners would also be able to study for a first qualification in British sign language free of charge, he said.  

Khan’s manifesto commitments on promoting digital skills and training building workers through his construction academy were also being met, said Pipe. “It’s ensuring that business in the capital has access to the skilled talent pool it needs, and ensuring that Londoners have the skills they need to take up these roles.” But more action would need more devolution, he said.

This call was echoed by Agrawal, Khan’s deputy mayor for business.   Khan is on track to meet his manifesto intention to be “the most pro-business Mayor ever”, he said, working with businesses through the London business board and tackling inequality. 

The number of employers paying the London Living Wage has doubled to 1,600 since 2016, he said, and added that Khan’s Good Work Standard, promoting best employment practice in pay, conditions, staff welfare, training and recruitment and launched at the end of July, already had 40 large employers accredited and 50 in the process of signing up.

But major investment support, including the new £100 million Greater London Investment Fund for small businesses, as well as significant financial help for skills programmes, was heavily dependent on European Union funding, with no certainty about replacement programmes, Agrawal said: “It’s hugely important that this support is devolved and properly funded. The government must give us guarantees that we will keep the levels of funding that we have.”

Pipe set out the key demands in Khan’s recent Call to Action on the need for an integrated and properly funded skills and employment support system under the capital’s control. This would cover adult education and skills training and also careers advice for people in work as well as school leavers, apprenticeships, 16 to 18 training and assistance into work.

The call, prepared jointly with London Councils, umbrella body for the capital’s local authorities, is backed by the TUC and business organisations including London First and the London Chamber of Commerce & Industry (LCCI). The latest LCCI survey of London business, produced with London Councils and published this week, shows 42 per cent of businesses citing skills shortages as a main barrier to growth.

In his Introduction to the survey, LCCI interim chief executive Peter Bishop commends the Call for Action and writes: “The capital needs additional competencies to address the skills needs of London employers. A new deal delivering a holistic skills and employment system with dedicated apprenticeships, ongoing careers advice, enhanced further education investment and control over adult education to embed lifelong learning, would provide a strong foundation for the future economic growth of London.”

The survey comes as a new analysis from City Hall economists, The Economic Impact of Brexit on London, reports an increase in business closures since the referendum, business start-up rates down from six per cent in 2016 to one per cent in 2017, and continuing concern about labour supply in a city where 14 per cent of workers are from Europe.

Image from the Mayor’s Skills for Londoners strategy document.

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