15th January 2010 at 00:00
Capital climbdown amp; Publicity pruning

Capital climbdown

The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) has been very mysterious about its reasons for suddenly approving nearly 35 million for new buildings at Skelmersdale amp; Ormskirk College.

Originally judged not to be a priority case for capital funding, the college popped up without warning on the list of approved projects last summer, with the LSC saying only that it was a "separate case".

Now, thanks to the minutes of the capital committee last August - finally published after a delay of five months - we know the real reason: it was a cock-up.

"Incorrect advice given to the college at the regional level has left the LSC in a position where it is legally obliged to fund the project," the minutes reveal. "This is the only college in this unique position."

"Incorrect advice", eh? The dozens of colleges that sunk millions into projects that had no hope of ever proceeding because the money had already been spent might have a thing or two to say about "incorrect advice".

The minutes also reveal that the LSC believed its chances of successfully defending a judicial review over its handling of college capital were good. With The Grimsby Institute now having filed a claim to be heard later this year, the LSC must be hoping that the quality of its advice has improved.

Publicity pruning

In these straitened times, the Learning and Skills Improvement Service continues its efficency drive in a bid to avoid being shut down by whichever cost-cutting government gets elected.

The latest casualty is its contract with PR firm Blue Rubicon. The company will have to console itself that at least it still has the Department for Children, Schools and Families, City amp; Guilds, the National Year of Reading, Jobcentre Plus and the Central Office of Information.

There is only one concern: without an outsourced team of publicists, how will the famously shy and retiring chief executive, David Collins, get his message across?

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