Police face challenge to spend expiring apprenticeship levy
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
Suffolk police face one "hell of a challenge" to use up £380,000 in apprenticeship funding before having to hand back the balance to the government.
The constabulary has spent a fraction of funding reserved for apprenticeships through a levy dubbed a "tax on employment".
Since 2017, organisations with an annual payroll of more than £3million have been required to fund apprenticeships via a levy equivalent to 0.5% of salary costs, topped up by 10% from government money, with any unused cash going to the treasury after 24 months to support smaller businesses.
A freedom of information request revealed that Suffolk police had spent £7,898.31 of its ringfenced £387,611 levy in the 2020/21 financial year — partly down to a delay in the implementation of the Police Education Qualifications Framework (PEQF).
Postponed until early 2022, the PEQF was due to be introduced last October to replace traditional routes with a professional policing degree, a police constable degree apprenticeship and a graduate diploma.
A spokesman for the force, which currently has 25 apprenticeships, said a relatively new-in-post manager was working with department heads to promote and run the scheme, adding: “While unused funds are returned to the treasury after 24 months of the levy being granted, the force can still access this finance on the basis of a 5% cost to us and 95% drawn down from the levy.
"This year our levy ‘write off’ will be £316,455 based on our current apprenticeship profile.
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"The approach we have adopted will allow us to fund officer training under the PEQF scheme when required to, by using the levy, and will ensure that any taxpayer money is spent wisely and responsibly and at the appropriate time.”
Across England, the total value of expired levy funds for all employers was £847m in 2019/20 and £1.039bn from May 2020 to February 2021.
Police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore said the levy was effectively a compulsory "tax on employment", adding: "It's a hell of a challenge for any organisation to use that money, and the short answer is that we can't use all that money in such a short time, so we need to maximise our use of the scheme.
"I'm a huge fan of apprenticeship schemes, and once we start on the PEQF programme, we'll be able to claw some of that back."