Spend, spend, spend? - the mismanagement of the Learning and Skills Council's capital programme in further education colleges - Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee Contents

Annex: timeline

February 2008 LSC-commissioned Capital Affordability Review completed which states "the continuation of the current payment profile of projects is unaffordable to the Council" (para 19)
March 2008 LSC publishes National Capital Strategy for 2008-09 to 2010-11: "Weighted assessments will be introduced at national, regional and local assessment levels if and when it becomes necessary to prioritise capital applications that already meet or exceed the threshold criteria" (para 42)
22 April 2008 LSC Capital Policy Group refers Capital Affordability Review to LSC Finance and Resources Board, which considers it in May (para 22)
May-June 2008 LSC's Management Board receives a paper on capital issues at its meeting on 13 May 2008 warning of increasing pressure on the capital budget and alerting it to expect advice on short and medium term priorities at its meeting on 12 June 2008. No such advice is provided and neither are capital issues discussed at that meeting (para 34)
June 2008 Workload of the Capital Committee becomes so onerous that the Director of Property and Infrastructure requests an extra meeting in August to deal with the large number of projects waiting to be presented (para 34)
16 June 2008 Ministerial review meeting with the LSC Chairman and Chief Executive takes place (2009 Foster review, para 44): "Ministerial Review meetings are held jointly by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills and the Department for Children Schools and Families. Each meeting is chaired by the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Further Education, and attended by a Minister from DCSF, the Director of the DIUS Learning and Skills Performance Directorate and a Director from the DCSF Young People's Directorate. The LSC is represented by its LSC National Chair, Chief Executive and its key national directors. Other Ministers and officials from both Departments may also attend depending on the agenda" (Ev 47)
27 June 2008 Post-19 Performance and Finance Group meeting "between senior managers of the LSC and DIUS" (2009 Foster review, para 44)
11 July 2008 National Audit Office report published. Head of NAO states "The sector has taken on a higher level of debt, and therefore of risk, but the cost should be manageable. If the second half of the programme can maintain the success achieved in the first, further education will be well placed to offer enhanced value for money" (paras 94-103)
30 July 2008 LSC Council meeting approves the combined recommendations of the 19 June and 17 July Capital Committee meetings. These determine or recommend 26 FE and 16-19 capital funding applications with a total estimated cost of £1.2bn, including grant support of just over £1bn, payable over the next 5-6 years (para 34)
12 August 2008 "Finance stock-take meeting" involving senior managers in DIUS, LSC Chief Executive and Director of Resources (2009 Foster review, para 44): "Joint DIUS/DCSF financial stock take meetings take place approximately once a quarter. These are official level meetings, and are attended by the Director-General of the DIUS Further Education and Skills Group, the Director General of the DCSF's Young People's Directorate and the LSC Chief Executive. Other officials from both Departments, and from the LSC, may also attend depending on the agenda" (Ev 47)
19 September 2008 Capital Committee meets on 19 September 2008 and agrees to recommend to Council 7 Approvals in Principle (AiPs) and 1 Approval in Detail (AiD) with a total value of £401m. Affordability is discussed: the Minutes of the meeting state "The Committee was told that this year is the first time since the LSC was formed a potential overspend against the current capital budget was forecast compared to the potential underspend usually forecast at the same point in previous years ... The Committee would have to look at how projects are funded in the medium to longer term as the first regional capital strategy returns indicate a significant increase in forecast projects and a peaking of requirements around 2010-11 possibly influenced by the Machinery of Government outcomes. Further work was likely to be required reconciling these estimates with previous years forecasts before the strategies could be finalised" (para 34)
23 September 2008 Post-19 Performance and Finance Group meeting "between senior managers of the LSC and DIUS" (2009 Foster review, para 44)
30 September 2008 LSC External Advisory Group meets. Considers the LSC Capital Skills Prospectus. Minutes state that "There was a strong governance aspect to this work, with the new Regional Councils taking a lead in considering these proposals. The Prospectus was clear but the proposals were likely to generate a lot of demand, with associated risks. Ministers were currently considering these risks" (para 82)
21 October 2008 Ministerial review with the LSC Chairman and Chief Executive takes place (2009 Foster review, para 44)
22 October 2008 LSC Capital Committee meets and puts forward a further 4 AiPs and 5 AiDs with a total value of £530m (para 34); minutes state "a special submission had been made to DIUS to bring forward funds from future years (when the capital budget increases) to cope with the current exceptional demand for funds [...] The Committee was told that there is a possibility of capital allocations being brought forward to help ease current pressures. There may also be the possibility, given recent announcements by the Government of bidding for additional funds for the capital budget, but it is far from certain that this will happen"
5 November 2008 Council meets. Presented with Capital Committee project recommendations with costs approaching a further £1bn and an initial report on the future funding and priorities of the capital programme. Council approves the recommendations from September, only £44.5m of which was application in detail, but defers decisions on October recommendations until its 17 December meeting. Members also request a report on the funds available in 2008-09 and future years, and a paper forecasting AiP commitments (para 37)
13 November 2008 "Finance stock-take meeting" involving senior managers in DIUS, LSC Chief Executive and Director of Resources (2009 Foster review, para 44)
November—December 2008 Capital Committee agrees to recommend to the December meeting of Council further projects with a value of about £500m (fitting in an extra meeting on 4 December to get through them all)" (para 34)
November 2008 LSC produces a new Capital Skills Prospectus with an introduction from the Secretary of State
17 November 2008 Ian Watmore, Mark Haysom and Ms Susan Pember, Director, FE and Skills Performance Group, DIUS, give oral evidence to Public Accounts Committee on the FE programme (para 101)
20 November 2008 Post-19 Performance and Finance Group meeting "between senior managers of the LSC and DIUS) (2009 Foster review, para 44)
"end of November" 2008 Ministers first alerted to a potential problem with the capital programme (Secretary of State speaking in the House on 12 March 2009)
16 December 2008 Ministerial review with the LSC Chair and Chief Executive takes place. According to the 2009 Foster review (para 44), the capital programme is discussed for the first time at one of these meetings
17 December 2008 LSC Council meets and agrees to a three-month pause in consents to proceed with Approval in Principle (AiP) and Approval in Detail (AiD) applications (para 39)
January 2009 David Hughes, then London Regional Director, is quoted in LSC's 'the magazine' as follows "For the last couple of years we have been accelerating the approval of big capital schemes in colleges across London. We want the colleges in London to be good to look at, good to learn in and offering modern facilities and kit. That's what today's learners demand: exciting, modern, aspirational environments with cutting-edge facilities and carefully designed learning and social spaces […] There's a strong association between new buildings and high achievement" (para 76)
16 January 2009 LSC chief executive, Mark Haysom, writes to all college principals stating that there is no freeze in the programme but that the LSC is reviewing all projects in its pipeline (para 39)
27 January 2009 Sir Andrew Foster commissioned to review the College Building Programme Finances (para 2)
3 February 2009 Secretary of State says during Opposition day debate "There are schemes in the pipeline that have not yet been fully approved, and the LSC has put further approvals on hold until it has assessed the whole programme. The LSC has not yet provided a full analysis of all those schemes, but I need to be frank: many more schemes are currently in preparation than can be funded in this spending round" (para 2)
4 March 2009 LSC Council meets. Following the meeting, John Denham announces that the LSC has decided to give approval to eight capital projects which had been recommended for approval by the LSC Capital Committee (para 105)
23 March 2009 Senior official from DIUS tells the capital summit organised by the AoC that the LSC capital budget for College modernisation is fully committed. Mark Haysom resigns (Ev 40)
1 April 2009 2009 Foster Review published (para 2)
22 April 2009 LSC Council meets. Approves a new process for prioritising projects. Chancellor announces that an increase in capital funding for the LSC of £300 million to enable it to fund a limited number of further projects, starting in 2009/10 (Ev 40)
24 April 2009 Acting LSC Chief Executive, Geoff Russell, writes to all College Principals outlining the process and timetable for prioritising capital projects. His letter explains that the LSC National Council meets on 3 June 2009 and hopes to support £750 million of new schemes (Ev 40)
29 April 2009 Capital Reference Group of Principals and Chairs of governing bodies meets for the first time to review the prioritisation process (para 107)
8 May 2009 Colleges return questionnaires to the LSC indicating the extent to which projects are ready to start in summer 2009 (Ev 40)
1 June 2009 Acting Chief Executive writes to Colleges to say no decisions to be taken on 3 June (para 115)
3 June 2009 LSC National Council meets
15 June 2009 Capital Reference Group meets for the second time
26 June 2009 LSC announces 13 colleges through to next stage of the process (para 117)

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