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Training agency collapses

A cash crisis has led to the collapse of one of the country's longest- established training agencies for the further education sector after nearly fifty years, writes Lucy Ward.

LASER, an advisory council serving London and the South-east, is to close its doors next Easter.

The council blames increased competition in its field for its demise, combined with a squeeze on the resources of the colleges and other agencies which might have bought its services. Its income from conferences and training has recently dropped dramatically.

The final blow to its survival was the loss of a lucrative contract to run the quality assurance regional office of City Guilds following the awarding body's decision to relocate the office as part of a new headquarters.

Like the nine other regional advisory councils in England and Wales, LASER was funded by local authorities until 1989, when the agencies were gradually transferred to the market-place.

Laser's entrepreneurial approach saw it develop a successful publications arm, provide training, launch a magazine and manage curriculum development projects.

Though the company still has some reserves, its status as a charity means preparations must be made to wind it up to avoid leaving liabilities.

Laurie South, chief executive for the last six years, said Laser had looked at other options including a possible merger with another regional council, without success. He hoped some elements of the business could be sold off to allow its work to continue.

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