Another drain on our taxes

23rd February 2007 at 00:00

We are told (page 1) the new Information Authority will be "independent". The fact that this is being pointed out suggests some people in further education don't see eye-to-eye over how data is collected.

Whether or not this is the case, you would have to have been born yesterday to believe any entirely Government-funded organisation is actually independent.

If colleges and the organisations they deal with have a problem agreeing on how to collect data, they should sort it out between themselves. Public money should not be used to patch up differences over methodology.

Of course, there will be no problem finding cash for this new quango. Every five minutes we hear of a new plan to further impoverish the public to the benefit of the Treasury, from placing microchips in rubbish bins to spying on our cars from outer space and charging us as we drive to work - where we raise yet more taxes.

Just as fast as ministers think up new taxes, they dream up new organisations which immediately become regarded as essential to the survival of colleges. The Sector Skills Development Agency, Quality Improvement Agency, Learning and Skills Network and Becta, the educational IT agency - to name but four - alone account for over pound;149 million of public spending.

The Government already employs enough civil servants to collect the data it needs, not to mention an army of benighted advisers, to put the strategies in place. If they are not up to the job, it should replace them with people who are more productive.

Meanwhile, if ministers are still looking for a way to spend taxpayers'

money, we suggest they use it where it counts, on the one thing for which we are always told there is no more money: lecturers' salaries.

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