In a debate in Parliament this week on the Apprenticeship Levy, Gerald Jones, MP for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, demanded that the UK Government provide the funding to Welsh police forces for their apprenticeship schemes, which it had promised at the start of 2019.
The UK Apprenticeship Levy was introduced in 2017 and is paid by all employers – in England and Wales – with a wage bill over £3 million, used to fund training for employees without a degree.
The UK Government sends money directly to organisations that pay into the fund to allow them to train apprenticeships, but in Wales this money was initially sent to Welsh Government as part of a wider funding package.
Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney constituency covers two police authorities, Gwent Police and South Wales Police, which have paid around £400,000 and £1 million per year respectively into the levy since 2017, with the four Welsh police forces having paid in excess of £2 million collectively.
However, Welsh police forces have yet to see any of the funding following almost three years paying into the levy, with the UK Government arguing that since training and apprenticeships are devolved matters, the Welsh Government should fund these apprenticeships itself, while the Welsh Government and police forces argue that as policing is reserved rather than devolved, the funding should come from Westminster.
In 2018, following calls from the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent Police Jeff Cuthbert, and the Commissioner for South Wales Police Alun Michael, the Home Office advised that it would provide Welsh forces directly with their share of the levy from 2019.
With Welsh police forces yet to see any of the funding, and with apprenticeships in professional practice with the police now an established way for recruits without a degree to enter the force, Gerald urged the UK Government to provide the funding immediately, calling for a firm commitment from Westminster so that local police forces don’t have to use their own budgets to fund the crucial apprenticeships.
Speaking in the debate on Tuesday, Gerald said:
“We know that once the Government’s planned police recruitment drive is complete, whenever that might be, overall police numbers will still be lower than those inherited from the last Labour Government in 2010, as will police numbers in both of the police authorities in my constituency.
“If the Government will not commit to providing the funding for apprenticeships lost through the apprenticeship levy, there will be even fewer police officers on the streets of Wales.
“This issue has gone on for a very long time and that funding is needed to support police forces across Wales, so I hope the Minister can provide clarity and reassurance.”