Up to 1,000 staff could lose employment as the Learning and Skills Council's restructures itself. Ian Nash reports
Work began this week to scale down operations at the 47 local offices of the Learning and Skills Council and give more control to the nine regions.
Many jobs are expected to go. A spokesperson for the LSC said it was not possible at this stage to say how many. But up to 1,000 posts are likely to be lost, as reported in FE Focus last week.
Regional offices of the LSC will take over a wide range of technical, administrative and strategic work, leaving local offices to identify immediate needs for learning and skills training and co-ordinate the work of colleges and other providers.
Mark Haysom, chief executive of the LSC, was due to address all 47 executive directors at the Coventry HQ as FE Focus went to press. The executives were expected to report back to staff on that meeting today.
The LSC spokesperson described the meeting with Mr Haysom as an "opening-up" of discussions.
"We are embarking on the next step of the Agenda for Change. We are talking to staff and unions but we have some way to go before we will have news of definite changes."
The reform package will rethink how responsibilities are shared between the local and regional offices.
During consultations on the new agenda, it was suggested that "technical and strategic planning would be more effective if done nine times rather than 47."
There has been constant criticism from colleges of the performance of many LSC local offices - a criticism Mr Haysom had pledged to act on. Much of the reform programme is likely to be in the hands of regional directors who could have scope to close or merge local offices within national guidelines.
The prospect of serious job losses has already led to threats of industrial action by the Public and Commercial Services Union, which represents staff working for the pound;9 billion council.
Andrew Lloyd, PCS official for the staff, claimed that with 800 jobs having already been cut between 2003 and 2004. "We cannot envisage how we can streamline the organisation further." (FE Focus, September 9) A high proportion of cuts are likely to be administrative and clerical jobs.
But college leaders argue that there is still much scope for further rationalisation, provided the cash saved goes to the colleges and other providers.
Julian Gravatt, the Association of Colleges' director of funding, said: "We support any reforms that would channel more money towards the college 'front-line'.
"We have long lobbied for a devolution of powers from the LSC towards colleges - in particular for reduced intervention within successful colleges. In our submission to the Foster Review we argued that the current LSC structure has proved unwieldy and inefficient and suggested that a more streamlined organisation was required."
Part of the reforms Mr Haysom wants are understood to be measures to improve the calibre of staff working day-to-day with college principals and local officers.
The reforms under discussion are part of a wider effort to cut bureaucracy and red tape.
The spokesperson said: "We are looking at improvements in terms of making the organisation simpler and more transparent."