31st July 2009 at 01:00

Best foot forward

"The LSC is a success story," writes Geoff Russell, chief executive, in the funding body's annual report. Indeed it is - one to file alongside "Titanic: The Unsinkable Ship" and "Short Walks" by Captain Oates.

The report is a fanfare for the Learning and Skills Council's triumphs over the year, including success rates of 80 per cent, all achieved apparently without much help from lecturers and students.

And it shows that criticism of the LSC's risk management over trifling matters such as the largest capital investment in further education's history is totally misplaced: it really did have a plan to prevent disasters.

"Work-related accident rates remain below the national average for office- based industries, and we have a proven risk assessment approach for controlling hazards," the report notes. "For example, we have invested in supporting staff who have to drive regularly for work: in 2008-09, 443 staff completed the individualised driver risk assessment."

Meanwhile, where did we put that Pounds 2.3 billion, again?

Giving and taking

Success comes at a price. For instance, if you want to be successful at ensuring students get their educational maintenance allowance, then you will have to pay Pounds 4 million to contractor Liberata to stop cocking things up.

You will also have to waive Pounds 3m of penalty payments racked up by the service provider, which left hundreds of thousands of teenagers cash- strapped and threatening to quit courses when the money failed to arrive.

Meanwhile, the LSC's very own Rocky Balboa, Geoff Russell - coming out of retirement for one last job - receives just Pounds 208,000 a year according to the accounts, Pounds 15,000 less than his predecessor, despite steadying the crisis-hit body.

So in the topsy-turvy world of the LSC, it hands out huge sums of money to organisations that fail and offers a reduced salary to the man charged with sorting out its problems. With that sort of logic, next they will be offering students Pounds 30 a week to stay away from class.

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