Two-pronged funding defies logic, argue MPs

9th April 2010 at 01:00
Committee slams cost of bureaucratic change that denies adults chance to boost skills

MPs have criticised the Government for making adult education pay for the reorganisation of the further education funding system.

The Business, Innovation and Skills Committee said the Machinery of Government changes, which took effect from April 1, would introduce more complexity and said it was "highly sceptical" that long-term cost savings could be achieved by replacing one funding agency with two.

Its report on the replacement of the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) with the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) and the Young People's Learning Agency said FE minister Kevin Brennan had admitted that the restructure was being paid for by "re-prioritisation" of existing funds, including some adult education.

It said: "We are not convinced that, in a rapidly changing world where the Government seeks an increasingly flexible labour market, it is right to pay for bureaucratic change by denying many adults the new skills they need to meet the challenges of that world."

The Government hopes to make annual savings of pound;17 million from streamlining the two agencies, selling off unused property and sharing services such as IT.

MPs backed colleges in their criticisms of the new system, saying there was little logic in a divided funding system and that it would only create more confusion.

The committee said: "We have grave concerns about the logic or probable effectiveness of having two organisations running further education, and we have yet to be presented with a convincing argument in support of this approach."

MPs also questioned the National Apprenticeship Service operating as a separate entity within the SFA, creating new management and accountability concerns. And they challenged the Government to produce evidence that 30 organisations were being eliminated from the system.

Mr Brennan acknowledged to the committee that the system was "incredibly complex", despite the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills announcing the changes last week as a "simpler" system.

But he said: "One can simplify things by creating one huge body, which was what the LSC was originally, but sometimes simplification means having a body with a mission that everybody understands rather than just reducing everything into a single body."

Editorial, page 32.

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