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Ministers force skills council to cull boardroom chatter

Ministers are to sweep aside the network of local skills councils set up as the centrepiece of the reform of further education five years ago.

The Learning and Skills Council is expected to be ordered to ditch its network of 47 boards across England, each with 16 members, including a chief executive, chair and a team of advisors. The work of the local councils will be taken over by the nine beefed-up LSC regional councils, with 12-16 members each.

The quango - having already culled 12,000 jobs - says this time there will be no redundancies because local offices will continue with their administrative roles, which include acting as the contact point with colleges and other organisations.

Rob Wye, the director of communications and strategy at the LSC, said: "The local councils had 16 people on the board and that's what we are getting rid of. The offices will remain."

It is intended that the LSC, which is responsible for more than pound;10 billion a year of public expenditure, will be leaner and more efficient, with decision-making concentrated in fewer hands. Businesses, training organisations and local authorities will be encouraged to talk to each other with less reference to the LSC.

The plans were revealed in the Further Education and Training Bill, published on Tuesday.

"I think with any bureaucracy there is always a demand for feeding the machine," said Mr Wye. "Now, that machine will need less feeding.

"I think 47 was a good halfway house between the 72 Training and Enterprise Councils which we replaced and the nine regional councils which we will have now, assuming the Bill becomes law."

The local skills councils were established under the Learning and Skills Act when the LSC was created in 2001. The only power they were given in the legislation was to agree the local plan for training provision. This power, along with others delegated to them by the LSC, would pass to the regional councils.

FE college principals could become easier to dismiss. The Bill proposes that powers to remove under-performers be transferred from the Department for Education and Skills to the LSC.

Bill Rammell, the minister for further and higher education, said: "I must stress that we are talking about a very small number of providers, but it is important that we demonstrate that there is rigour in what we are doing."

A college principal's qualification will become a legal requirement if the Bill becomes law. Until now, principals and most other senior FE managers have avoided being made to earn certificates to prove their abilities, while lecturers have been adjusting to the requirement to be qualified for their jobs. School headteachers already have to be qualified for their positions.

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