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My Dream Budget Speech

14 November 2017

Here’s what I would like the Chancellor to say when he stands up to present his Autumn Budget on 22nd November. “Mr Speaker, Our country faces enormous uncertainty after a period of unprecedented political shifts, which look likely to continue. Productivity has remained stubbornly stagnant for the last decade. Social mobility is weak with parental education & wealth still having a major impact on life chances. Regional inequalities in social and economic progress remain persistent are grossly unfair. Brexit has highlighted the weakness of our labour markets the long term lack of investment by employers in skills. Skills shortages will inevitably limit economic growth. And too many people still live in poverty despite being in work. Therefore Mr Speaker I’m delighted today to announce a major boost to our drive for productivity & social mobility. Through sustained investment in colleges, which hold the key to a successful post-Brexit Britain, we will properly recognise them as vital social & community assets. For too long colleges have had to cope with funding cuts so I am delighted to be able today to announce an immediate increase to funding rates for both young people and adults, putting right the reductions in the last 7 or 8 years. We will launch a new capital grant fund to help colleges upgrade their estates and invest in new technology and equipment. We will ensure that this new funding supports colleges to attract and retain staff and increase pay. We will provide colleges with a new student travel and support fund to make sure that every student can choose the best course & work-placement for them irrespective of costs. But this is not just about young people, so we will also top-slice the apprenticeship levy and use that funding to focus on improving diversity and access, investing in key sectors which face the most severe skills shortages and addressing regional inequalities. We will offer more flexibility on learner loans and incentives to adults to sign up. We will establish a new post-16 strategy to pull together all of the strands of Government investment. We will take new measures to incentivise employers to invest alongside adults Mr Speaker this will go down in history as the best Budget for our people and I have every confidence that colleges will step up to deliver greater social mobility & productivity.” Unfortunately some, or perhaps even all of that won’t happen on the 22nd. I won’t let that dent my optimism, in fact that would make me more determined, I hope it does for you too. We have made a great start with 16 -18 funding campaign, we are being heard as we start to act with one voice and get a feel for how that works. But we must keep on fighting for it, making our case and doing our lobbying better and smarter. And whatever outcome of Budget, we can build on what we have done. Because we all know that making the case for investment in colleges is not difficult; having it heard and acted upon is the hard bit. And that takes time. And it takes others, advocates, to speak for us. And we can certainly get better at that as a sector. We have not yet developed the advocate voice for what we do. Our plans at AoC are to put more work into that through engaging employers and students, because they know how impressive colleges are at helping them meet their needs. David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges This speech was delivered at AoC's Annual Conference in Birmingham (14-15 November 2017)