In the last nine years of a Labour government, from 2001/02 to 2009/10, £3.6billion was “provided to support capital improvements in further education colleges” – an average £403.7million a year.
However, in the first six years of Conservative rule, the figure was just £957m – an average of just £159.5m a year.
Between 2015/16 and 2020/21, £980m “was devolved through the Local Growth Fund to Local Enterprise Partnerships to allocate against local skills and growth projects, including supporting skills capital projects” – an average £161m a year.
Yet last month, the Prime Minister boasted of a boosting colleges amid a new focus on skills and apprenticeships as the country battles back from the coronavirus pandemic.
Addressing the Tory Party conference this month, Mr Johnson claimed he “effectively broke down the senseless barrier between further education and higher education, so that it is just as easy to get the funding you need for a training course in engineering or IT as for a degree in politics or economics”.
He said: “We are offering every adult four years of funded post-18 education – a lifetime skills guarantee.”
But Labour said the amount spent on college facilities’ and upgrading buildings threw the commitment to skills into doubt.
Shadow Apprenticeships and Lifelong Learning Minister Toby Perkins told the Mirror: “The publication of these figures starkly reveal what college principals across the land already know – that for all the rhetoric, this Government’s capital investment in our FE estate is neither transformational nor record-breaking.
“Compared with the investment made by the last Labour government it is a pitiful insult to the FE sector the Government claims to champion.”
Revealing the figures in a written parliamentary answer, Education Minister Gillian Keegan, said:
“From 2015-16 until 2020-21, £980m was devolved through the Local Growth Fund to Local Enterprise Partnerships to allocate against local skills and growth projects, including supporting skills capital projects.
“The Government is committed to upgrading FE colleges over the coming five years so they are great places to learn, by investing £1.5bn to transform the FE college estate.
“That transformation has begun with an allocation of £200m this year to FE colleges and designated institutions to tackle immediate remedial condition improvement projects.
“This adds to the investment already made in Institutes of Technology and T levels capital.
“We will invest up to £290m of capital funding to establish 20 employer-led Institutes of Technology, with the aim of achieving nationwide coverage across all regions.
“We have so far invested £21.4m in 2019-20 and £18.9m in 2020-21.
“Since November 2019, £11.1m has been invested in delivering industry standard facilities in FE colleges to support the roll out of the new T levels qualification.
“This is supported with an investment of £5.4m to support the purchase of specialist equipment for T levels.”