Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Written Evidence


Memorandum by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) (RG 84)

  1.  This memorandum describes how the LSC's current and future arrangements can effectively deliver on the skill needs of the country at national, regional and local levels.

  2.  The role of the LSC is to equip the workforce with learning and skills that will drive up our economic competitiveness. Whilst the UK has the fourth largest economy In the world our productivity lags behind the most advanced countries and despite comparatively high growth over the last five yearn, Gross Domestic Product per capita falls below most of our competitors. At the same time we face increased competition from the Far East. These factors all point to a need to deliver more high quality learning and skills.

  3.  As a Non-departmental Public Body the LSC is committed to ensuring that decision-making is made at the most appropriate level—be this at local, regional or national level. This philosophy is at the heart of our current reorganisation with embraces:

    —    the maximising of localness to meet employer needs and deliver the 14-19 agenda. Local Councils have a range of powers, enshrined in the "2000 Learning and Skills Act" to ensure effective planning and funding of Learning and Skills In their locality;

    —    the ability to respond effectively to work more closely with other regional bodies on skills issues; and

    —     national policy development to ensure drive, consistency and the sharing of best practice.

  4.  The LSC priorities for 2006-07 are attached In the annex.

REGIONAL ACCOUNTABILITY AND DECISION-MAKING

  5.  Many public sector organisations are already regionally structured thus ensuring that skills planning and decision making are taken at the regional level and that good-practice is shared regionally. We are transforming our organisation to meet a demanding new agenda which challenges us to achieve a balance between local delivery, regional strategy and national policy.

  6.  As part of this restructuring the LSC is enhancing and formalising the role of its Regional Boards which brings together the wealth of knowledge and experience of our non-executive employer Local Council members. This will both enhance our regional skills planning and operations and Increase our regional accountability as well as providing an opportunity to work more closely with Sector Skills Councils and other employer bodies. At the same time we are strengthening our local working to better meet employer skills needs and deliver the 14-19 agenda, working in partnership with local authorities. This is crucial to our success and means that, within a national framework, planning and funding of learning and skills is agreed at the local level and aggregated/ratified at the regional level to ensure that regional priorities, agreed by all partners engaged in Skills and learning activities, are addressed.

EFFECTIVENESS OF CURRENT ARRANGEMENTS

  7.  Within the skills arena Regional Skills Partnerships (RSPs) bring together the key regional organisations that plan and fund skills and learning. The RSPs work within the Regional Economic Strategy and they are supported within each region by subregional and Local Strategic Partnerships which ensure that skills and learning needs are identified and met at subregional and local levels. These arrangements, which embrace Local Authorities (LAs) are proving to be particularly effective in ensuring that all necessary partners are fully engaged in meeting employer skills needs and that funding is aligned to maximise the raising of Skills levels. Attached in the annex are examples of the RSP added value to raising skills levels.

  8.  LAs are a key contributor to the learning and skills agenda both at the strategic level and as a substantial local pubic sector employer. The LSC works in partnership with all LAs covering, for example, School Sixth Form Funding, developing 14-19 partnerships, supporting the development of Children's Trusts, sharing LMI data to identify learning and skills needs and more recently in developing Local Area Agreements (LAAs) which have been piloted within 20 local areas. The roll out of LAAs across the whole country throughout 2006-07 and 2007-08 will further strengthen the LSC/LA relationship and will result in further partnership working including agreeing joint local economic targets and opportunities to align funding to join up and maximise local skills and economic development. In terms of public accountability the LSCs close working relationship with LAs helps to address any perceived democratic deficit which is raised from time to time in relation to regional bodies.

CITY-REGIONS

  9.  The City-Regions agenda brings a focus on our conurbations which are the key drivers of the UK economy. They operate as single, integrated labour markets with a substantial degree of mobility of labour within their boundaries. Demographic change means City-Regions will have a massive recruitment requirement over the next 10 years as such there is a real value in adopting an integrated employment and skills strategy which transcends local political/administrative boundaries.

  10.  To be a success the City-Regions and Core Cities need to complement and build upon already well established sub-regional arrangements. Whilst this has initially added to the complexity of geographical operations and interventions greater clarity on the purpose, outcomes and inter-relations of these various working arrangements should, over the coming months, simplify systems and ensure effective decision-making is made at the most appropriate level.

  11.  The LSC is engaged in the development of the eight City-Region approaches and our new structure will give us further flexibility to reconfigure our regional and local teams to support this kind of pan-area approach thereby increasing our contribution and responsiveness. We will ensure that the Skills agenda is at the heart of social and economic regeneration and that current effective infrastructures are utilised to best effect thereby avoiding the introduction of any new tiers of bureaucracy. Examples of our approaches from Birmingham, Sheffield and the North East are included in the annex.

  12.  The City-Region approach does have the potential to focus effort on areas major economic potential and social need and to share the lessons learnt across the whole region. The approach will need to encompass substantial conurbations which are not centred on a major city and care needs to be taken to ensure that resources from outside the City-Region boundaries are not inadvertently diverted, and that rural needs continue to be addressed.

CLOSER INTER-REGIONAL WORKING

  13.  The value of closer inter-regional working on the skills agenda via, for example the Northern Way, is developing well in addition there are already good examples of cross regional working including the M4 corridor, the Milton Keynes/South Midlands development area and Thames Gateway. The impact of this approach and its transferability to other areas will be evaluated over time. Any replication of this approach would need to take into account regional variability in terms of both geography and economic make-up, and putting in place the most effective and simple structures for delivery in that context.



 
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