Local government leaders have backed sharp criticism by MPs of the current apprenticeship system.
Mark Hawthorne of the Local Government Association said efforts to provide good quality apprenticeships were being hampered and called for greater flexibility.
The House of Commons public accounts committee said the Government had failed to make progress on its plan to boost apprenticeships and warned it would not reach its target of three million starts by March next year.
They said the Department for Education's focus on higher-level apprenticeships and levy-paying employers increased the risk that minority groups, disadvantaged areas and smaller employers would miss out on training opportunities.
Cllr Hawthorne said: 'Councils have warned the current system is hampering local efforts to boost apprenticeships and are calling for greater flexibility in order to deliver good-quality apprenticeships.
'Considerable barriers are restricting employers from spending their levy funds.
'Apprenticeships standards, against which the levy must be spent, have been delayed or are yet to be approved, including in adult care, early years and building control.
'The Government needs to pause plans to begin clawing back unspent levy funding this month as a result.
'This will only serve to hold employers and the workforce back and risks exacerbating the nation’s skills crisis.'