Following careful consideration by its Board, the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) has decided that it will not pursue legal action against the Department for Education in relation to Procurement Policy Note 02/20: Supplier relief due to COVID-19, published by the Cabinet Office on 20 March 2020.
After considering the reply dated 14 May 2020 from the Government Legal Department (GLD) on the legal advice which AELP received in April, AELP’s lawyers are clear that the only action now would be seeking a judicial review. The AELP Board believes that such action would come at a significant cost; a positive result would be to review the process but there would still be no guarantee of substantial support from the DfE for suppliers even after that. This would also take time, to a point where it might be too late for many AELP members.
Although AELP will not be pursuing a legal resolution of this matter, copies of the letters between the AELP’s lawyers and the GLD will be made available to members or groups of members if they feel that they want to pursue further themselves.
AELP’s lawyers have indicated to AELP that the GLD’s response does not make a case for defending the DfE’s position on the application of PPN 02/20. The AELP Board feels strongly the letter is simply one of rebuttal and it avoids addressing the key issues such as the legal agreement between the Education and Skills Funding Agency and a provider for levy-funded apprenticeships constituting a contract. The Labour Party’s shadow education team has also written to the Secretary of State, Gavin Williamson, calling for the government to abandon its “very flimsy case” for excluding levy-funded apprenticeships from the DfE’s supplier relief scheme.
Last week, in response to the Commons Education Select Committee chair Robert Halfon, the Prime Minister said that he "totally agreed" that apprenticeships would play a "huge part in getting people back on to the jobs market and getting them into work and we will look at anything to help people". Over the weekend, press reports indicated that the Chancellor will announce a new Budget in early July that will provide funds to retrain workers who are laid off when furloughing ends. In both cases, AELP’s view is that the government must make the connection between maximising the number of training opportunities and ensuring that the country’s training infrastructure is at maximum capacity to help create those opportunities.
Therefore it is imperative that the DfE extends its relief scheme as soon as possible to cover providers of levy-funded apprenticeships because many of these providers are active in the delivery of other employment and skills programmes which could have a very positive impact in terms of supporting the economic recovery.
Association of Employment and Learning Providers
01 June 2020