Opposition councillors have welcomed a change of heart by Southwark Council on fees charged for adult learners.
The council has said it will now scrap the controversial ‘repeat fee’ for concessionary learners, introduced by the Labour administration in late 2010 for people who had already been on a course before. It meant that people on low incomes were being charged more than 300% of the normal concessionary price for some courses, even if they were going on to do a follow on course.
A course on CV writing and interview skills, for example, costs a jobseeker £46.50, as opposed to the £111 standard price. However, for anybody who has already undertaken a course of adult learning, the ‘repeat fee’ price would shoot up to £165.
Concerns about the new fees structure have been raised a number of times at meetings of the council’s cross-party Education, Children’s Services and Leisure scrutiny committee, with representations made to the committee on behalf of students.
Campaigners from Save Southwark Adult Learning have been critical of the ‘discriminatory” repeat fee, and have also presented a deputation to Council Assembly.
The ‘repeat fee’ will continue to be charged for non-concessionary learners, however.
Basic adult learner fees will also now be frozen, according to the new pricing schedule announced by the council.
Welcoming the move, Cllr David Hubber, Liberal Democrat chair of the scrutiny panel, said:
“This is good news indeed for those people who are keen to continue on adult learning courses, but felt they couldn’t afford the repeat fees after their initial course.”
“I am very pleased that the Cabinet member for Communities and Economic Wellbeing has listened and responded positively.”