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MPs attack 'confused' regional policy;FE Focus

MPs have blasted a hole in the Government's policies for the regions and accused it of confusion and duplication.

The Education and Employment Committee published its report this week on the relationship between training enterprise councils and the proposed Regional Development Agencies. The hard-hitting report takes issue repeatedly with the views of civil servants and rejects some of their key arguments over proposed regional development.

The highlight concern over the future role of the Government Offices for the Regions. They were worried that TECs would have split responsibilities - to Regional Development Agencies in strategic matters, and to Government offices for contracting and performance.

"In fact, the situation may be worse in practice, as it is not clear that RDAs will have full authority over strategy. We believe that the proposed framework could be a recipe for confusion, duplication and frustration for TECs.

"Furthermore, we are not convinced that Government offices should act as umpires or arbiters of last resort in disputes between TECs and RDAs." They said that Department for Education and Employment officials' description of GOs (Government Offices) as being the focal point between RDAs and TECs was "unsustainable".

They add that RDAs should assume the role of contracting with TECs for management of Government-funded training programmes and of business development and human resource programmes.

"This should include financial responsibility and strategic responsibility for the skills agenda, with the consequence that the role of Government Offices for the Regions would be significantly diminished." Only in this way would the RDAs be credible and effective instruments for nurturing economic regional development.

The MPs supported an early phased approach to the transfer of funding streams for TECs from the GOs. The RDAs should not be allowed to become just an extra layer to the structures already in place for regional skills development, they insisted.

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