London chief 'forced out'

18th July 2003 at 01:00
THE boss of a local learning and skills council says he was forced to resign after the quango's national office failed to investigate his complaints about his chairman.

Despite the official gloss on the resignation of Vic Seddon, executive director of London South council, the real reason for his departure was a clash of management style between himself and local chairman Roy Charles.

In the official statement from the national LSC, Mr Seddon, a former college principal, said: "It has been my pleasure to see our local office emerge as a driving force for educational change in the region."

But, in his resignation letter, a copy of which has been received by FE Focus, he claimed he was compelled to quit because John Harwood, the LSC's national chief executive, did not take his complaints seriously.

Mr Seddon claims Mr Charles, who runs a computer business, brought the London South council "almost into disrepute" by being openly critical of colleges, and qualifications including A-levels, Modern Apprenticeships and NVQs.

The letter, which was sent to Mr Harwood, added: "I have been disappointed that my earlier complaints along these lines have resulted in no action and now I feel compelled to resign."

Mr Seddon's letter added: "I am amazed that he (Roy Charles) has been allowed to continue in the role as long as this, or even that he still finds it interesting, in the light of his disdain for the national learning framework."

But Mr Charles insisted he was "100 per cent committed" to LSC targets and the national learning framework and said Mr Seddon had misinterpreted his criticisms about qualifications.

While his own exam achievements amounted to "one O-level and two CSE grade ones", he insisted his attitude towards qualifications was reformist rather than cynical.

"There's a number of products out there. They are top-down, rather than meeting demand," said Mr Charles. "Qualifications are important and need to respond to business needs. In some ways they do and in some ways they need some work. There has to be change.

"No one would dispute the need for qualifications to be responsive."

Mr Charles said his views were supported by the Learning and Skills Development Agency and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

Mr Seddon complains in his letter that Mr Charles asked the council member for approval of an allocation of pound;50,000 to a London South initiative - after the decision to give the money had already been taken. The cash was to cover a pound;40,000-a-year post with a pound;10,000 expense allowance for the "Why Not" project on post-16 innovation.

In an email about the money, which hs been leaked to FE Focus, Mr Charles said: "I would appreciate a note confirming receipt of this email and your continued support (if not a damn good reason Why Not?)."

Mr Charles said he "followed procedures". He said he and Mr Seddon were:

"Two people from different backgrounds and with different outlooks who have had good healthy debates over a period of time, which is better than two people with the same mindset."

The national LSC insisted any formal complaint would have been investigated, although it would not discuss Mr Seddon's case.

Mr Harwood said: "Any formal complaints I receive are taken very seriously and investigated. We have procedures in place to deal with grievances."

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