CALLS are being made for a rethink over plans to cut apprenticeship funding at City of York Council after figures revealed the number of posts at the authority have already fallen by 60 per cent.

The last four years have seen the number of apprentices employed by the authority drop from 35 in 2011/12 to just 13 this year.

Now a councillor has voiced fears the numbers could plummet further after the recently announced budget proposals revealed plans to remove the £115,000 funding for apprentices.

Councillor Keith Aspden is writing to the council's chief executive Kersten England to ask what the impact of funding cuts would be, and whether it will jeopardise a wider regional rise in the number of apprenticeships.

Cllr Aspden said: "Apprenticeships are a great way of getting people into work and provide local businesses with excellent staff for the future.

"Locally support for apprenticeships has enjoyed cross-party support. I hope that this proposed cut doesn't mean a move away from council support for this area.

"Having already seen a reduction in the number of apprentices we will take a further step backwards if the support funding is removed. This will make it much more difficult for council to return anywhere near the levels achieved in 2011.

"I appreciate that the council programme itself represents only a small proportion of apprenticeships in York, with more than 1500 residents on programmes at any point in time, but it is important for the council to be able to lead by example."

Over the last four years the number of apprentices have fallen from35, to 34, then 18 and now 13 for 2014/15, although only seven have been appointed to date.

Pauline Stuchfield, assistant director of customers and employees at the council, said: "With reduced funding year on year, the council is having to find new ways of delivering services and initiatives.

"The current apprenticeships budget reduction was agreed last year as part of the budget prioritisation proposals for 2015/16.

"This reduction is a reflection of the financial challenges we face but it does not mean we are less committed to supporting apprenticeships in the city.

"The council is committed to apprenticeships across the city and by the end of this year we will have employed over 100 apprentices over the past five years as well as introducing a living wage for apprentices.

"As a council we are actively moving to a culture of employing apprentices across the organisation when roles become vacant giving them long term employment security."