Largesse with public money

4th February 2005 at 00:00
Of course, some MPs occupy loftier positions than others. There's your straight-forward back-bench lobby fodder and then there are the ones who have a national role to play.

For the latter, their constituency business helps them keep some sense of perspective, as Barry Sheerman, chairman of the Commons education select committee, can testify.

When FErret told him about the former Learning and Skills Council chief executive John Harwood's pound;218,700 pay-off, he was reminded of a constituent up in his beloved Yorkshire who came to his surgery the other day.

Like Mr Harwood, the gentleman is in his late 50s. Unlike Mr Harwood, he wasn't able to walk into another job. And he must make do with the statutory minimum redundancy pay and social security.

Apart from noting society's generosity towards quangocracts compared to the lowly worker, Mr Sheerman didn't wish to rush judgement about about the LSC's largesse.

To be fair, Mr Sheerman's committee has more to concern itself with than the bunging around of the odd six-figure golden handshake.

Mr Harwood's pay-off is peanuts compared with the amount of money gleefully handed to learndirect providers who then failed to cut the mustard.

Last week, we reported that the LSC still doesn't know exactly how much it is owed in "clawback" for learndirect provision which fell short of what had been paid for by the quango's 47 local offices.

It revealed that it was "certain" of pound;4 million. So how much of this debt is overdue for payment? The quango wasn't able to say last week but has now coughed up with the figure - pound;3.25m (ie most of it).

Time the LSC sent round the heavies.

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