THE GOVERNMENT'S plans for post-16 education will bind the sector in red tape, according to union, local government and voluntary sector chiefs.
In an open letter to Education Secretary David Blunkett they brand plans to set up a super-quango, the Skills and Learning Council, as "centralised and bureaucratic".
Some of the most important figures in post-16 education - Sir Jeremy Beecham, chair of the Local Government Association; Rodney Bickerstaff, general secretary of the public service union UNISON; John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Assocation, as well as the National Union of Teachers, Association of Teachers and Lecturers, National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education, and the National Youth Agency - back a more decentralised structure in which organisations similar to the existing Training and Enterprise Councils would co-ordinate local provision under the supervision of the regional development agencies.
"There is a broad consensus that the proposed arrangements for planning and administering the new systems run the risk of undermining the Government's good intentions. The proposed structures seem to be unnecessarily centralised and bureaucratic," says the group in its letter.
"There is particular concern about the role of the proposed 50 Learning and Skills Councils which will operate at a 'sub-regional' level, allocating pound;5 billion of public money through centrally appointed boards. We strongly urge you to consider whether the system needs to be so complicated and confusing.
"We urge the Government to consider carefully the alternative framework for post-16 education and business support outlined in this letter - and to extend the consultation period on its proposals if necessary."