Inconsistent, ineffective, untrustworthy and unaccountable. This is the damning verdict of college principals who responded to a survey about the performance of the Learning and Skills Council.
Presented with 10 positive statements about the LSC to which they were asked if they agreed or disagreed on a scale of one to five, principals provided a negative result in every case.
Seven out of 10 replied that they disagree that the LSC is consistent in its application of policies and procedures.
Just over a fifth (21 per cent) said they believe that colleges and the LSC are working well together in a partnership of trust.
Six out of 10 disagree that the strategic planning of the sector has improved since the formation of the LSC.
One in eight (12 per cent) believes the LSC is properly accountable, while only 7 per cent say the council distributes its funds equitably and openly.
Asked if the measures taken by the LSC to reduce bureaucracy are working well, 2 per cent agreed and 78 per cent disagreed.
Of the 127 principals who took part, 58 also added comments about the LSC, which funds colleges. One said: "After four years it's a national disgrace." Another replied: "I find them ignorant, overbearing and bullying (you can tell I'm having problems right now!)" A third principal said: "There are some good and sincere people within the LSC but they are not in a framework which allows them to be effective. They have very low morale.
"All this local planning and intervention is a waste of time, as market forces will always be more powerful than exhortation.
"Could we please go back to having a simple national funding body? Dealing with HEFCE is simple and cheap. This could be the model for the LSC."
There was also a sprinkling of positive comments about the LSC. One principal wrote: "The college has benefited from a trust relationship which has been tested and proven. There have been a few occasions when officers have made inappropriate promises resulting in reduced funding for the college."
A second replied: "The local staff are very nice and try to be helpful to the college."
David Collins, principal at the top-performing South Cheshire college, who compiled the survey, is to discuss its findings with the Department for Education and Skills. He is to meet Sue Pember, the director of the DfES's skills strategy unit next week, and has also asked to meet Mark Haysom, the LSC's chief executive.
He said all LSC regions and all types of colleges, including large urban colleges, sixth-form colleges, and land-based institutions, were represented in the replies.