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Bland rebuttal fails to answer those persistent questions

Professor Melville's generalised and bland rebuttal of pointed and specific criticism from Bilston College made poor reading, particularly as similar criticisms from other colleges have circulated for some time.

Accusations of tardiness, deviousness and even bullying have never been far from the surface, and the activities of the supposedly objective Inspectorate have created the impression that its main role recently has been to justify the funding council's actions and ratify the pre-conceived perceptions of colleges held by council officers.

This labyrinthine bureaucracy has stifled initiative, smothered enterprise and sapped staff morale.

After the first few heady years the council, set up o facilitate through funding the development of the sector and its students and latterly pursue and support a widening participation agenda, has achieved the opposite - culminating in a decline in student enrolments since this Government was elected.

Now, with the learning and skills councils, we are to face a "new dawn". But too few of their officers have direct delivery experience, and most of those who can influence policy are refugee training brokers from the largely discredited training and enterprise councils.

Until proper recognition is given to problems of delivery, Government, providers and students will be let down again.

Ken Ruddiman

Future Perfect, Selby, North Yorks

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