Britain's TECs can look forward for the first time in their eight-year history. Jonathan Hunt reports from their conference
Kim Howells, the lifelong learning minister, called on training and enterprise councils to "cut out unnecessary bureaucracy" and boost performance, when he launched a consultative document on their role last week.
The departmental document accuses TECs of patchy performance, short-term thinking and of lacking accountability and focus.
But Dr Howells told the conference that the Government sees a "key role for TECs in developing skills, stimulating enterprise and helping businesses grow". He wants them to build on the "good foundations TECs have achieved and tackle the obstacles that have hampered progress".
He also wants them to ensure that good intelligence is available on the extent of the skills gap, and says it is essential that they share information with national training organisations and the Government's skills task force to share information".
The paper raises the issues of spending surpluses, alternative methods of funding wider TEC activities, simpler government auditing and how to obtain value for money.
The TEC national council welcomed the document "as a further step in clarifying and strengthening their role in developing competitiveness" - the first of the six key challenges which the Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett sets out for them.
The other challenges are raising standards of education and training; promoting lifelong learning; moving people from welfare to work; creating a more productive and socially inclusive society and regenerating local communities.
"While TECs have a clear idea about their role at the local level, they need guidance on national priorities," said Lindsay Simpson, the national council's director of enterprise. Responses are sought by the end of September.