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Baroness Blatch: Again, it is a disappointing answer. It strikes me that certainly the national council, which is only 12 to 16 members, and the local councils, which are of a relatively modest size, will have members capable of making the contribution described by the noble Baroness. One would want all members of those councils to have the experience which gives them a real understanding of the functions and powers of the council, and that they should be capable of being chairman of it.

Tensions will exist in the councils because they are all given equal status. There will be one chairman who will be totally full-time and one chief executive. The relationship between the two will be interesting. One is a deliverer of the policies and the other a policymaker. But here we have a mixture of the two. I am disappointed but may return to the matter at another stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 108 and 109 not moved.]

Clause 19 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 110 not moved.]

Schedule 2 [Local councils]:

[Amendment No. 111 not moved.]

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 112:

("4.--(1) After seeking the advice of a local council's chairman, the Council must appoint one of its employees as the director of the local council.

10 Feb 2000 : Column 853

(2) The Council may appoint such of its other employees as it thinks fit to act as the staff of a local council.").

The noble Lord said: I move this amendment in the name of my noble friend and invite the Committee to see it in conjunction with Clause 20 of the Bill. We set out in the White Paper and in the LSC prospectus how we would combine the benefits of a single unitary organisation with local delivery and decision-making. The LSC will be one corporate body working through and delegating functions to its local arms; that is to say, the local councils. The employees of the LSC at national and local level will be employees of the one organisation, subject to the same terms and conditions. Of course, in practice local councils will be responsible for selection, recruitment and management of their staff. But it is important for the character and the success of the one unitary organisation that staff should be appointed as LSC staff.

Therefore on reflection the Government do not believe that the current wording of paragraph 4 of Schedule 2 accurately provides for that policy. Its effect would be that staff appointed at the local level would be employees of the local council under separate terms and conditions from other employees of the LSC. The Government's amendment provides that it is the LSC as a single body which appoints employees, though in practice, through the delegation of functions to the local councils, all recruitment decisions will be made at local level.

In the case of the director of the local council, the amendment makes clear that the local chairman will play a crucial role. The director can only be appointed after the LSC has sought the advice of the local chairman. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch: I am sorry that we are not able to continue dialogue on the whole issue of transferring posts and the TUPE arrangements until we reach Amendment No. 210. This is the second time today that we have come across an issue involving some understanding of the degree to which the local skills councils and the national skills council will have to absorb existing staff, the degree to which their conditions of work will transfer with them, and also some of the financial consequences of that happening. If we are not to hear about that until Amendment No. 210, I rest my comments on the record that it is an area about which we should like more information.

Lord Bach: Of course we hear what the noble Baroness says.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford moved Amendment No. 113:

    Page 59, line 18, at end insert--


8.--(1) A local council must establish a young people's learning committee and an adult learning committee.
(2) Members of a committee may be (but need not be) members of the council.").

10 Feb 2000 : Column 854

The noble Baroness said: The amendment proposes that local councils will mirror the national body by establishing two separate committees, one for young people and another for adults, with duties parallel to those of the national committees. The interests of adults and young people frequently diverge. Local councils will be the executive arm of the national body and it is vital that the needs of the two separate communities are effectively represented locally. Replicating the two committees locally will ensure wider representation and a greater range of interests being heard.

We are particularly anxious that there will be adequate representation for adult learners whose needs, with the current emphasis on the social exclusion agenda, may tend to be overlooked locally. The Government must consider the amendment seriously. If they are to live up to their words that the ethos behind the Bill is to encourage bottom-up rather than top-down initiatives, it is important to provide a focus for such initiatives locally.

Baroness Blackstone: I agree with the noble Baroness that the LSC should focus clearly on adult learning as well as the needs of young people. An approach that will attract adult learners will often be different from that appropriate for 16 to 19 year-olds. To ensure that the needs of both groups are fully reflected in the LSC's decision-making, we have made provision in Schedule 3 for a young people's learning committee, whose role will be appropriate at a national level. Local LSCs will wish to seek the advice of experts and may want to establish committees for that purpose. Nothing in the Bill prevents them doing so.

There are many circumstances in which that would be beneficial and will happen. Our guidance to the council will reflect that view. We want to preserve a local flexibility to allow LSCs to manage their own business, so it would not be appropriate to stipulate that every LSC must establish two committees in the form proposed. The decision to set up an adult or young people's committee should rest with the local councils. I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: I much appreciate the emphasis that the Minister placed on local flexibility. It is valuable to have on record the Government's expectation that there may frequently be local replication of the two committees. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 2, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 20 [Functions of local councils]:

[Amendment No. 114 not moved.]

Clause 20 agreed to.

Clause 21 [Guidance to local councils]:

[Amendment No. 115 not moved.]

10 Feb 2000 : Column 855

Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 116:

    Page 9, line 7, at end insert ("including the need to ensure maximum flexibility in the application of funding formulae at local level, with the aim of ensuring that good sixth-form provision can be sustained, and where possible, strengthened").

The noble Lord said: With this, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 119. It is extremely important to maintain maximum flexibility in the application of funding formulae locally to ensure that good sixth form provision can be sustained and strengthened. It is important also that local LSCs have the flexibility to vary national guidelines and funding tariffs, so that they may respond to local circumstances and needs.

It is crucial that LSCs locally are free to enter into partnership agreements such as regeneration projects. LSCs, using their flexible local budgets, also need to complement national, regional and local priorities on ERDF funding, mainstream funding as it contributes to economic development and regeneration and area-based programmes such as the single regeneration budget and the new deal for communities. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch: I rise to speak to Amendments Nos. 117 and 118. I am not possessive about the forms of wording because I think that we are all approaching the same issue though in a slightly different way--the importance of flexibility at a local level. The noble Lord, Lord Tope, mentioned some of the complications that arise at local level, like the way in which the single regeneration budget and some of the local initiatives work.

I should like to give a little force to some of the things that have been said by Ministers in the course of our discussions on the Bill; for example, that there will be room for local flexibility. Indeed, in at least one of the briefing meetings that I attended 15 per cent was mentioned and I have also heard 10 per cent mentioned.

In determining allocations it seems to me that a proportion of a local council's budget that is used flexibly at local level ought to be determined and made public. In that way, the local council would not simply receive a sum of money which then moves onwards, with people literally sitting on the edge of their seats wondering just how much will be allowed to deal with very local and parochial issues as they arise. I will either support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Tope, or ask that my amendment be taken into account.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Bach: I shall deal, first, with Amendment No. 116. The Government have already said on a number of occasions in Committee that we want to ensure that young people have the best possible range and choice of good quality opportunities at this critical 16 to 19 stage. We have also said that effective school sixth forms have a key role to play in our drive to raise standards. I repeat: sixth forms that are providing good quality provision have nothing to fear from these proposals. We promised a real-term safeguard of funding levels where numbers are maintained.

10 Feb 2000 : Column 856

We have gone on to make it clear that LSC funding to LEAs for their school sixth forms must be spent on schools with sixth forms and not diverted into other services. We have also said that LEAs will continue to be able to add, if they wish, to the funds provided by the LSC for the sixth forms in their area. This is important local flexibility. But the Government could not subscribe to a concept of "maximum local flexibility" in legislation. This would inevitably lead to funding decisions that were arbitrary and incoherent--indeed, quite the opposite of what I am sure all of us want. The amendment speaks of sustaining and strengthening good provision, but that is what the Bill is about right across post-16 learning. It is also a fundamental part of our approach to school sixth forms. We argue that the amendment is unnecessary.

I turn now to Amendment No. 117, tabled in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. The budgets set for local LSCs will of course influence how they will achieve their objectives. We would expect there to be a dialogue between the local arms of the LSC and the national arm about resources and what local arms can sensibly be expected to achieve with the resources available. Without in any way being discourteous, we say that this amendment simply states the obvious. Do we really need extra provisions in legislation to underline this obvious practicality? We suggest not.

Finally, I turn to Amendments Nos. 118 and 119. The prospectus published in December made clear our commitment to ensuring that local LSCs have proper discretion over LSC money spent local. In particular, we have made it clear that the local LSCs will make the important decisions about how the LSC's main budgets should be allocated. They will be able to exercise discretion to vary the rate of payment that the LSC's national tariff sets out for different types of provision. A local LSC might want to exercise such discretion where, for example, it thinks that this would help to tackle local shortages of good quality training for skills that are in particular demand.

It may help the Committee to know that the Government envisage that 10 to 15 per cent of LSC budgets will be for provision that is not included in the national tariff and will be made at the discretion of the local LSC, covering, for example, improvements in the quality of local provision and workforce development. We are currently consulting through the Funding and Allocations Consultation Document on how the LSC's funding system should work and what sort of local flexibility will be required. We intend that each local LSC will have a substantial local initiatives fund. However, we do not think that it is appropriate to include on the face of the Bill this level of detail as to what the national LSC's guidance should contain. I hope that the comments that I have made on this series of amendments will persuade the Committee not to pursue their amendments.

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