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Log on to funding made easier

The Learning and Skills Council hopes to cut a swathe through its own bureaucracy. Steve Hook reports.

A NEWLY-designed website has been launched to guide hard-pressed managers through the college funding maze.

The Learning and Skills Council admits its site - - has been a major source of bafflement. College principals have frequently cited it as a prime example of excessive bureaucracy. The new site, which retains the same address, aims to make it easier for colleges to get relevant information.

Sir George Sweeney, chairman of the LSC's bureaucracy-busting taskforce, said: "The LSC needs to get a lot of information to colleges. We think this site will be much easier to use."

The sections for young and adult learners - the ultimate recipients of LSC funding - are still not ready. But the LSC says it decided to go ahead anyway because of the urgent need to improve the service The funding system is notoriously labour-intensive and even the process of simplifying it means more circulars and advice, which have to be downloaded.

These changes include three-year funding plans and a huge cut in clawback, where colleges are forced to repay the LSC when they fall short of predicted targets, including student numbers.

Colleges have also been told they can have 100 per cent funding for student numbers which exceed targets in priority areas, such as basic skills.

John Harwood, LSC chief executive, said: "This new, revamped website is a significant move forward in terms of the way the LSC communicates online.

"Many of the changes are a direct result of the feedback we have received from users of the site, both through formal research and ad hoc comments.

"I would like to thank all those who have contributed. The LSC's new website has been developed with the interests of all our partners and stakeholders in mind. So pay a visit and give us your feedback."

The LSC has announced the full membership of its bureaucracy review group, to be headed by Sir Andrew Foster, who is soon to stand down as head of the Audit Commission.

They include Lynne Sedgmore, principal of Guildford college in Surrey, Karen Hagan, finance manager of Somerset college and Tim Andrew, sixth-form head of Chesham high school in Buckinghamshire.

They will help Sir Andrew with a list of recommendations for reducing red tape. The first round is expected in about six months.

What's your verdict on the new LSC site? Have your say. www.tesfefocus.

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