Learndirect was set up to reach a new, national audience, many of whose members were not traditional learners. It seems obvious that this will call for expenditure over and above the local spends made by FE colleges.
Another major remit of Learndirect was to change attitudes to lifelong learning, especially amongst those groups who wouldn't normally consider further education.
As any marketing person will tell you, it's cheap to sell to the converted, but building a new client base is always very expensive.
And as for administrative costs: again, it seems inevitable to me that if you are going to start up and run an extremely complex, ICT-based system providing online learning for everyone, anywhere, then the only realistic criterion is the cost-per-learner hour. On that front, Learndirect does very well - and it's only a few years old.
Let's be efficient with public money, but let's also compare like with like. Learndirect may overlap with FE, but it's positioned to offer something that FE can't: nationally available, integrated, consistent, on-demand learning wherever you can get to a computer.
David Hoyle. Turvey, Bedford