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Concern over Apprenticeship Levy

Published: 4 Feb 2016 05:00

Devolved ministers highlight serious issues with Westminster plan.

Employment and skills ministers from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will call for greater clarity around the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy from April 2017.

Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Skills and Training Roseanna Cunningham will host Welsh Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology Julie James, Northern Ireland Minister for Employment and Learning Dr Stephen Farry and UK Minister for Skills and Equalities Nick Boles in Edinburgh today (February 4).

The devolved ministers will voice concerns to their UK counterpart on the following key elements of delivering the Levy:

  • the potential for the Levy to undermine devolved apprenticeship policies
  • the best method for fairly apportioning the Levy raised across the devolved administrations, including transparency around UK departmental budgets
  • content and timelines for the legislation that will introduce the Levy into statute
  • the need to ensure that the changing apprenticeship landscape will be clear to cross border employers and providers.

The devolved ministers issued a joint letter to Mr Boles earlier this week. Ahead of the meeting, Ms Cunningham said:

"The introduction of the Levy remains a matter of fundamental concern for us. It encroaches on our devolved responsibilities and is causing concern for employers. The UK Government has no control over how our administrations provide apprenticeships and to imply otherwise by collecting what amounts to an employment tax is misleading for any employer with operations outside England.

"We call upon the UK government to offer urgent clarity on the Levy at today's meeting, and to consider the wider implications of its introduction."

Julie James AM, Welsh Government Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology added:

"We have been very clear from the outset that the Welsh Government has serious concerns about the Apprenticeship Levy and the impact it will have on the apprenticeship system here in Wales.

"The levy is an unwelcome new tax burden for Welsh employers, and means Welsh public services will have to pay money back to the Exchequer when they are already under pressure.

"I welcome the opportunity to discuss our shared concerns with the UK's other Skills Ministers. As our administrations develop their own distinct skills policies continued discussion is essential in order to address UK-wide issues that impact upon learners, employers and communities."

NI Employment and Learning Minister, Dr Stephen Farry also said:

"Along with my Ministerial colleagues from Scotland and Wales I am concerned that the imposition of the Apprenticeship Levy could have unintended consequences for the Devolved Administrations. This Levy will be a further tax burden on large businesses and this could impact negatively on the UK's and Northern Ireland's ability to compete globally and to attract new business.

"The Northern Ireland System of Apprenticeships is very much based on a quality model which forms a key element of the wider programme of implementation in line with employer expectations. There is no intention to change the model that exists in Northern Ireland."