College heads say further education is the significant loser in this autumn's spending round, thanks to funding promises made to higher education and schools, writes Tony Tysome.
They claim that £1.5 billion extra for the sector over the next three years, announced last week by Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary, amounts to about £600 million for colleges - £1.3 billion less than they need to help meet targets for further and higher education.
The Association of Colleges said this week that the further education settlement included £500 million already announced as a cash injection to help bail out the Learning and Skills Council, which had run out of money to fund colleges that have recruited above their targets.
The remaining £1 billion is to be spread thinly across the LSC sector, with a big proportion going to finance reforms in school sixth forms and in the 14-19 curriculum.
A promised 31 per cent increase in capital funding for colleges includes cash already announced, and will be again shared with school sixth forms in a new single capital budget for 16-19 provision.
John Brennan, AoC chief executive, said there were "serious questions" about the Government's plan to hike college fees by 40 per cent for adult students on higher education access and professional courses in further education.
"The worry is that employers and individuals will simply not be prepared to pay any more," he said.