Tony Tysome reports from the Association of Colleges conference, Birmingham
Ministers have dismissed claims by college heads that the Learning and Skills Council does not have the funding to meet government training targets.
The Association of Colleges warned that LSC allocations for training people aiming for level 2 or basic skills qualifications - identified as a priority by the government - fall £20 million short of projected needs.
In addition, college bids for up to £30 million set aside for courses not on the priority list had been rejected by the LSC, the AoC said.
AoC chief executive John Brennan said: "Further education colleges warmly welcomed the skills white paper. But we have been pointing out to government for some time the disparity between its ambition to drive up skill levels and the resources available.
"If the delivery of a basic qualification entitlement for adults requires the withdrawal of opportunities for non-priority groups, the government's strategy will have failed."
But Alan Johnson, further and higher education minister, does not believe that the LSC lacks the money for priority areas. "We are satisfied that they do have the funding required to meet the commitments we have set out," he said.
Mr Johnson told the conference he was unable to unlock any more funding centrally for further education this year. But he added: "If there are further ways in which we can sensibly reduce the extent to which funding is tied to particular activities, then I pledge that we will do just that."
AoC deputy chief-executive Sue Dutton said a system of performance-related funding, due to be introduced by the LSC next year, would add to colleges'
financial difficulties, leaving many struggling to honour a new two-year pay deal agreed with unions.