Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60 - 62)



Mr Turner

  60. Could I revert to the tension between the national LSC level, the local LSC level and the immediately local which could be presented as one between national consistency and responsiveness or could be presented as one between an arm's length approach and an interventionist approach. Could you point up some advantages and disadvantages of the transition from the FEFC to the LSC arrangement reflecting that tension?
  (Mr Gibson) It is not easy. If you do not mind I have to just say that it has been six months in operation, if I may say that in fairness and professionalism really. I think the two things that were immediately different were the ability and the power for the LSC to be involved in planning. Under the old system as a Principal in Manchester I used to do a three year strategic plan, we used to consult everybody and then we used to consult their family very nearly, we used to send it to the TEC and we used to get a letter back that said "This is a very nice strategic plan, thank you very much" and that was it. We have got to do something better than that. I think the potential has to be there for planning in partnership, John stressed this and so has this John. I think the difference is if you impose a new set of rules down like that you smash the ability to perceive the needs of the community locally and if it is done in that way it will be detrimental. If it is genuinely done bringing in all the partners in that geographical area to negotiate what the priorities are, to agree the way forward, and that is happening in some LSCs, then I think it can be very, very helpful. The difference is the 47 different ones are behaving in very different ways.
  (Mr Taylor) Whenever I have undertaken a SWOT analysis, an analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, I, like everyone else, have found it difficult to know whether to put something under an opportunity or a threat and it is often the same thing. What I see as happening is that everything is being reconsidered. When everything, like the process by which a new capital spend on a building, is agreed, when that is being reconsidered there is a lack of certainty and in a lack of certainty there is risk. Somehow we have to find a way in which we can use the energy and the innovation from a reconsideration of doing things without the loss of what we already have. I think it is an opportunity and a threat, it is change, it is lack of certainty and it is risk, but we have got to evolve it properly.


  61. I am not going to let you three off the hook. You are the Secretary of State, what do you want over this coming year? What would you do if you were the Secretary of State?
  (Mr Gibson) I listen to you as well, Chairman. I prepared for that one.

  62. Very quickly.
  (Mr Gibson) I am not going to let you off core funding. It would let down the entire sector if I did not emphasise that again and again. I believe a lot of it could be funded from existing monies. We always need more money but let us look at the cost of bureaucracy, let us look at the costs we have already. As I said earlier, I believe we have got to argue very forcibly for our students, for student support, for student finance. I think that we would very much welcome, and we are arranging some seminars about this, help to get clarity in our relationship with employers as to whose responsibility it is to pay how much because I think there is a major workforce development challenge to it.
  (Mr Brennan) I would simply add to that list, Chairman, simplify and streamline the system and make it more effective.
  (Mr Taylor) If I could just add one that has not been mentioned before. I would like the Secretary of State to demonstrate her appreciation of the value of what she already has in the FE sector.

  Chairman: Can I thank all three of you. It is embarrassing when people have so much to say and such good thoughts to share with us that I, as Chairman, am constantly pushing you on. Forgive me, John Taylor, John Brennan and David Gibson, for pushing you a little. Thank you very much.

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