The Learning & Skills Council fiasco

You may have been aware of the grand plans a good number of colleges in Brighton & Hove had been preparing over the last two years. These plans involved new facilities, amazing new buildings, incredible resources and flights of architectural imagination. Certainly I didn’t agree with all the detailed plans but I welcomed the additional resources scheduled to be ploughed into education in our local colleges.

But the resources weren’t in fact there. In an astonishing, jaw-dropping tale of mismanagement it subsequently emerged that the Learning & Skills Council, a government quango, had massively overpromised. They had told hundreds of colleges to proceed with their plans, take out loans and hire consultants, architects etc to flesh out their plans. However finally the LSC had to admit they couldn’t afford to pay for all the schemes they had initially suggested should proceed.

How so many colleges could be led up the garden path by a government body beggars belief, it’s an epic cock-up whereby hundreds of colleges will be left out of pocket due to government failings – taxpayers are paying for these problems.

A committee of MPs have come to similar conclusions. More from the excellent Westminster blog I Spy Strangers (who I feel report on Parliamentary business in an old fashioned way – which is a good thing in this context):

A committee of MPs has castigated the “financial fiasco of the capital programme in further education colleges” and blamed the “heinously complicated” management structure at the Learning and Skills Council.

“But, as we set out in this report, no-one was keeping an eye on the total amount of money which was being committed and the value of applications coming forward.
“In December 2008 it suddenly dawned on the senior management of DIUS and the LSC that the total potential cost of projects which had received ‘Approval in Principle’ exceeded the capital budget and many more applications were in the pipeline.
“Far from trying to damp down increasing demand in 2008 the LSC had been encouraging it.”

I hope Brighton & Hove’s colleges pull through this, I know we’ll support them 100% in trying to recoup their losses from the government.