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UNION LEARNING FUND: Calls for reversal of decision to cut the fund

UNION LEARNING FUND: Calls for reversal of decision to cut the fund

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ST HELENS Council will call on its Labour MPs to lobby the government to reverse its decision to cut the £12 million Union Learning Fund (ULF).

The ULF was established under the Labour government in 1998 to support trade unions to widen access to learning and training in workplaces for both union members and non-members.

In October, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) was informed by the Department for Education (DfE) that ministers had decided to end the ULF from March 2021.

The TUC has called the move “astonishing and counterproductive”, saying more than 200,000 learners acquired new skills through union learning last year alone.

On Wednesday, St Helens Borough Council debated a motion that called on the council to express its public support for the continuation of the fund.

Labour councillor John Wiseman, who brought the motion, said education will be vital in the fallout caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cllr Wiseman said: “Let’s look at the evidence, the evidence is, there’s gonna be mass redundancies coming up.

“There’s gonna be a massive attack on people’s benefits, etc, directly or indirectly from policies that are coming from either the government or indirectly from what’s being caused by the coronavirus.

“Our futures are our education.

“And both young people and those adults taking the first steps into work, which will be this summer, at the height of probably the biggest economic crisis since the 1930s.

“We need our education.”

There is an independent evaluation of the Union Learning Fund every two years. It was most recently evaluated by the University of Exeter in 2018.

The 2018 independent evaluation found the ULF delivers an estimated net contribution to the economy of more than £1.4 billion as a result of a boost to jobs, wages and productivity.

It also found that for every £1 spent on the Union Learning Fund, there is a return of £12.30: £7.60 to the worker, £4.70 to the employer..

Cllr James Tasker, leader of The Independents, said it made “no sense” to cut the £12 mllion fund.

“I think it’s already been said,  for every pound that’s spent, there’s £12.30 returned back and it contributes nearly £1.5 billion a yea to our economy,” he said.

“We need that money more than ever, especially with everything going on in the country and the world right now.

“And we know how important education is to helping people get out of social deprivation, and getting our of poverty, so I fully support this motion.”

The motion was backed by the Liberal Democrats, the Greens and The Independents.

All three Conservative councillors chose not to comment during the debate and abstained from the vote.

The leader of the council will now raise the issue with St Helens North Labour MP Conor McGinn and St Helens South and Whiston Labour MP Marie Rimmer and encourage them to call on the government to reverse its decision.

Words: Kenny Lomas, Local Democracy Reporter

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