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Meet the LSC's pound;9bn man

He is the new man in the hottest seat in further education. Richard Healey was this week put in charge of the Learning and Skills Council's pound;8.8 billion budget.

He becomes the LSC's finance director at a time when the FE funding body is facing perhaps its biggest ever crisis over cuts in courses for adult students.

Replacing Philip Lloyd who left the LSC in January, Mr Healey will lead the finance division and be responsible for the "development, implementation and continuous improvement of financial processes and policies throughout the LSC".

Of last year's pound;8.8bn budget, pound;4.8bn was spent on education and training for 16 to 19-year-olds and pound;2.9bn on adults. The remaining pound;1.1bn was spent on capital projects and local initiatives.

He said: "The job comes with a number of challenges. We fund millions of learners in a wide variety of ways. I will have strong forecasting responsibility as we go forward. As in any organisation, there is always more demand than there is money. It is my job to see that the money available is spent well."

He said it would be "a very strange organisation where the finance team leads on policy", but as financial director he expects to have a say in key decisions.

"Priorities have to be taken into account, and of course the funding of adult courses is one area of concern," he added. "I don't expect it to be an easy ride. The sheer scale of the operation is going to give me more than enough to do."

He said if he could make just a 1 per cent improvement in financial efficiency, it would mean a saving of pound;88 million. "That is going to make a fantastic difference on the ground," he added.

His previous role at the LSC was as director of financial innovation, in charge of developing financial policy, improving finance systems and coordinating professional training.

"That was about improving systems and practices to make things more efficient and user-friendly for colleges. It was a very useful background for the challenges I face in this role."

He has already set up meetings with a number of college principals. "I intend to take every opportunity to get out and about to meet people in the sector," he said.

Mr Healey said FE had turned his own life around. Until 22 years ago he had been drifting aimlessly in a menial job as an office clerk. But at the age of 27 he enrolled on a course at Newport College in South Wales to study accountancy, and has never looked back.

He also has experience as a lecturer, working part-time at Gwent College of Higher Education for four years, and has held several private sector positions.

His main outside interest is tea. He helped set up Cotswold Teas, a firm providing fine teas to hotels, restaurants, and tea rooms, now run by his wife and daughter.

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