London debates future of post-16x

26th August 2005 at 01:00
Mayor questions Learning and Skills Council's role in the capital. Joe Clancy reports

Ken Livingstone and further education funding chief Mark Haysom are involved in a debate about the future of post-16 education in London as the mayor seeks more powers.

The London Development Agency, the mayor's organisation to promote business and jobs, has questioned the role of the Learning and Skills Council as it carries out an inquiry it is holding into how the capital is run.

The debate follows the apppointment of David Hughes as the LSC's regional director in London. Mr Hughes, who was previously regional director in the West Midlands, replaces Jacqui Henderson who retires from the London post in October.

Mr Hughes said: "There is an ongoing discussion between us and the LDA over governance arrangements. These decisions are a matter for politicians, for Mr Blair and Mr Livingstone. We have just got to deliver and be seen to deliver. That's what London needs and what London deserves.

"There is clearly a big skills agenda and the LDA and the Greater London Authority have to have a big say in that. We are in control now and have to get on with the job. If things change they will change."

He said he is delighted to be returning to London, the city where he was born and brought up before leaving for university.

"It is nice to be back and it is a step up," he added. "London has the biggest budget of all the regions. There is a lot more contact with ministers, but they tend to stick their oar in more often.

"It is nice that Mark (Haysom) has got the confidence in me to take on this job."

Two years ago the LSC faced a similar threat in the North-west region, where the local development agency also launched a bid to take control of the skills budget. That threat was seen off amid much rancour.

A leading further education consultant said: "The battle in London is in essence a battle for the future of the LSC. If London falls, all the other LSC regions will topple too."

The LDA is responsible for driving economic growth in the capital. Manny Lewis, the LDA's chief executive, said he regards skills training as crucial to that task.

He has gone on record as saying it was logical for skills to come under its remit. According to an LDA survey, the skills shortage is the biggest problem facing London's 300,000 businesses.

The London Assembly gave Ms Henderson a tough grilling about the role of the LSC in London when she gave evidence to their commission on how London is governed.

She was asked about how much flexibility she has in spending the LSC's Pounds 1.2 billion budget for London, how the LSC role fits in with the Mayor's economic development strategy, and should the LSC in London be free from having to meet national targets.

She replied: "My view is that the priorities for the LSC nationally are absolutely in tune with the priorities for London."

Mr Haysom said of the appointments: "I'm convinced that we have in place a strong management team able to steer the LSC, and the sector through significant change."

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