Taking Out the Trash Day

22 July 2016

British politicos of all stripes and colours have long had a soft spot for the now iconic American show The West Wing, and many will recognise with grim amusement the show's portrayal of "Take Out the Trash Day".

The final day of Parliament before a long period of Recess inevitably produces a flood of ministerial written statements issued by the Government in what some see as an attempt to ‘bury’ certain awkward political stories. 

As summer 2016 begins, we take a look at some of the big announcements that got muffled yesterday.

Schools Funding Formula delayed

A favourite gripe of Conservative backbenchers, reform of the schools funding formula has been a long held aim of the Government that was reaffirmed by Schools Minister Lord Nash in a written statement.

However, the new formula, which was originally to be applied in 2017-18, will now be applied from 2018-19. Further, Lord Nash informed the House that the Government’s full response to the first stage of the schools and high needs funding reform consultations and proposals for the second stage would only be set out when Parliament returned in the autumn.

Final decisions on the new formula would only come in the new year, it was confirmed.

Reassurances were also provided about the levels of funding for the year 2017-18, with confirmation that “no school can face a funding reduction of more than 1.5 per cent per pupil next year in what it receives through the local authority funding formula”.

Plans for a national funding formula for early years would be set out “shortly”, it was confirmed.

The statement came on the same day that Education Secretary Justine Greening fielded an Urgent Question in the Commons on the issue.

Education Committee Chair Neil Carmichael challenged her on the continued delay, while Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner called the plans “woeful and last minute” and criticised the Government for imposing real terms cuts on schools.

University Tuition fees

Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson confirmed in a written statement that the maximum cap for tuition fees would be increased by forecast inflation in 2017-18 to £9,250. A similar increase would also be seen in the cap for tuition fees for part-time courses, with the level rising to £6,935.

The BBC reported that the move had been welcomed by Universities UK, which argued that inflation had actually led to a real terms cut in the cap since it had been introduced, and that the catch up in the level was “essential to allow universities to continue to deliver a high-quality learning experience for students”.

However, Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner said "these further increases in fees will be a barrier to aspiration, making it even more difficult for those from low and middle-income families to get the best education they deserve".

Office for Civil Society moves to DCMS

Responsibility for the Office for Civil Society, which was founded by the Coalition Government and lay within the Cabinet Office, will now be shifted to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Civil Society Minister Rob Wilson will follow his brief to DCMS.

Lord Privy Seal Baroness Evans of Bowes Park said in a written statement that the office will continue to hold responsibility for youth policy and National Citizen Service, and will also continue to work across Government and “promote social and community action, social investment, mission-led business and mutuals”.

Third Sector said that the office would also gain responsibility for libraries funding, and sponsorship of the Big Lottery Fund would also be transferred to DCMS.

However, the office’s functions with regard to policy innovation through the Policy Lab will remain with the Cabinet Office.

UK Commission for Employment and Skills to close

The closure of the UKCES was confirmed by ministers in a written statement to the House by Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Robert Halfon, with the organisation to be wound up by the end of the 2016-17 financial year.

Though he suggested that this had previously been announced in the 2015 Autumn Statement, the Statement in fact only included a mention to “savings… being made from the supporting budgets” and did not specify the agency’s closure.

National Occupational Standards will now be managed by the Devolved Administrations and an as yet unnamed public sector organisation, and the future management of Investors in People.

The management of the Employer Skills Survey, the Employer Perspectives Survey and the LMI (Labour Market Information) for All Portal will be moved into the Department for Education, in line with the recent transfer of responsibilities of skills from the erstwhile Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.

FE Week published details on the agency’s annual accounts reports, noting that £2m had been set aside to pay off staff in the organisation.

Cedars pre-departure accommodation closure

One of the flagship moves of the Coalition Government in the area of immigration detention, Cedars was designed as family-friendly accommodation for families facing deportation. However, the centre, operated by children’s charity Barnardo’s, was lambasted by some as an extravagant waste of money, costing £6.4m to operate last year but housing only 14 families.

As a result, the Government yesterday announced its intention to close the centre in a written statement by Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill. Instead, a discrete unit will be created at the Tinsley House immigration removal centre.

While the Statement was keen to stress that the Government would continue to abide by rules to end the routine detention of children for immigration purposes, the Independent reported that some, including Labour MP Lisa Nandy, argued that the move marked a betrayal of the pledge to end such practices.

Madhav Bakshi, Political Analyst
Madhav Bakshi
Political Analyst

Madhav Bakshi is a Political Analyst within DeHavilland’s Editorial Team and leads on Energy policy. He is a graduate of King’s College London, where he studied International Politics.