12 October 2011

The proposed budget for Cornwall Council for 2012/13 to 2015/16 indicates spending of £700 000 in 2012/13 and again in 2013/14 on a Cornwall replacement of the England education maintenance allowance (EMA). A longer term funding scheme is being sought by the council too. I very much welcome Cornwall Council’s endeavours on this.

However there are two concerns.

The first is that the Cornwall EMA will be funded according to the budget from “one off convergence monies” (paragraph 127 of the proposed budget 2012/13 to 2015/16). Graham Smith wonders on his blog whether this may be against EU rules. We shall see.

The second is the scope of the Cornwall EMA.

In August 2011 there were 7647 recipients of EMA in Cornwall: see here.
£700 000 distributed equally would give each of them a derisory amount so presumably the intention is to give the Cornwall EMA to a much reduced number. In England some students 16-19* will get a bursary of £1200 a year as a replacement of EMA so the council presumably will not be giving them the Cornwall EMA. The money will go to those students from households with the lowest incomes but who are not in receipt of the bursary. I think we are looking at numbers which make the scheme hardly a replacement for the England EMA. Nevertheless, the council is trying to help within the funds it has.

The Council is also exploring the possibility of helping university students from Cornwall but this depends on identifying funding of £3 million a year.

All in all, a very commendable and progressive policy from the council, trying to mitigate a disastrous and reactionary policy from the Tory Libdem government of the UK.

Students in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland can still get the EMA as it has not been abolished there. The abolition of the EMA applies to England only. As far as I can see the council does not make this clear.

* Students who qualify for the bursary include those who are in care, or are care leavers, or are receiving income support, and some who are disabled. See here.