Burnham-On-Sea town councillors have this week hit out at the government’s decision to make £3m of funding cuts which have led to scores of adult education courses being postponed across the county – including in the town.
Course provider Somerset Skills and Learning (SS&L) is facing a funding gap following the cutbacks, as we first reported here.
The organisation, which has a centre in Burnham-On-Sea’s Princess Street, employs about 200 people, and provides courses to 10,000 people.
SS&L, formerly known as Somerset Skills and Learning, has been given just £111,000 by the government to last from this November until July next year. Typically it receives about £3m for the period.
The matter was discussed at a meeting of Burnham-On-Sea and Highbridge Town Council’s Town Projects Committee this week.
Town councillor Phil Harvey said: “This has come as a great shock to SS&L’s clients here in Burnham and across Somerset. There has been a huge cut in their government grant which puts the continuation of their service in question.”
“There is clearly no way that the Town Council can pick up the cost to save them, so lobbying the government is the key.”
Cllr Kate Lawson added: “It’s an absolute travesty that this funding has been cut. The vocational courses in Burnham are so important to helping people get into work, grow their confidence, and also help to improve mental health.”
“The centre plays an important part in people’s lives, whatever their age. Alternative services are available in Weston and Bridgwater but will people travel there from Burnham-On-Sea?”
Previously part of Somerset County Council, SS&L became a separate social enterprise in August 2015. The not-for-profit company was set up and run by the staff who were part of the council.
Its website currently offers 252 courses, however a statement has been posted about the cutbacks, stating: “Due to government funding cuts we are not accepting enrolments for leisure and interest courses at this time. Our Apprenticeship & Traineeship programs and GCSE Maths & English are still running as usual. We hope to open our other courses again soon.”
It offers a range of training courses at 10 centres across the county, including in Burnham-On-Sea, from apprenticeships to adult education courses.
Burnham-On-Sea’s MP James Heappey was among four local MPs who held an emergency meeting earlier this month with the Skills Minister to try and reverse a massive £3.3 million funding cut imposed on community education provider Somerset Skills and Learning. Talks are ongoing on the 97 per cent cut.