Head of skills budget still in doubt as row over hierarchy rolls on

20th November 2009 at 00:00
A decision on who will run the pound;4 billion adult skills budget in just a few months' time has been held up by a row over rank

Sources have told FE Focus that the post of chief executive of the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) is set to be filled by Geoff Russell, acting chief executive of the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), when the latter is abolished next April.

But it has remained unannounced, nearly five months after the leadership of its sister organisation, the Young People's Learning Agency, was made public.

FE Focus understands that the appointment cannot be confirmed until a dispute over who Mr Russell would report to is resolved, with Mr Russell pushing for a direct line to someone at the level of Stephen Marston, director-general of universities and skills at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

The department is thought to be proposing someone further down the hierarchy. Direct control of the SFA by the department was intended to be one of the strengths of the new funding arrangement.

John Denham, then Skills Secretary, said that non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) such as the LSC were intended to insulate ministers and their departments from administrative failures such as the collapse of the capital fund.

He told the Commons select committee investigating the failure: "Patently obviously, the theory of NDPBs when they were first set up, that they protect ministers from the political flak when things go wrong, does not appear to work as well as some of us might have liked."

An LSC spokeswoman said: "No appointment has been made, but David Cragg is acting as interim chief executive and is working with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on the details of the transition to the Skills Funding Agency."

Mr Cragg has previously stated that he would not be taking on the role permanently.

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