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Learning and Skills Council for England: Bureaucracy

Volume 476: debated on Monday 2 June 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills if he will make a statement on measures undertaken to date pursuant to the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) pledge to reduce bureaucracy, as indicated on page nineteen of the current LSC Statement. (205317)

The Government are committed to reducing bureaucracy at all levels within further education to release providers' energy to focus on the needs of individuals and employers. Through its deregulation agenda the Department and its intermediaries have already for example:

reduced the number of intermediary bodies—Ofsted and the Adult Learning Inspectorate have been brought together in one inspector body, QIA and CEL are being brought together into a single body which will provide support to FE colleges and providers;

reduced the administrative burden on colleges and independent providers—there is now light touch inspection for the best performers, a reduction in audit requirements is saving about £12 million in administrative time per year and recognition as an awarding body has recently been reduced from an average of 10 months to two-three months;

introduced Impact Assessments of policies on front line delivery.

The LSC is committed to reducing bureaucracy. As a result of the restructuring begun in 2005-06 the LSC expect to realise annual administration savings of £40 million by the end of 2008-09. The LSC are also committed to making administration efficiency savings during the current spending review period of 5 per cent. year on year.

The LSC have made significant administration efficiency savings since it started operations in April 2001. Administration costs as a proportion of total expenditure has fallen from 4.6 per cent. in 2001-02 to an anticipated 1.6 per cent. in 2010-11.

I have asked Mark Haysom, the LSC Chief Executive, to write to the hon. Member with further information on action being taken. A copy of his reply will be placed in the House Library.

Letter from Mark Haysom, dated 2 June 2008:

I am writing to you at the request of Bill Rammell in response to your recent question about the LSC pledge to reduce bureaucracy.

In our Statement of Priorities published in November 2007 we highlighted eight areas where we are committed to simplifying the education and training system for the benefit of learners and employers.

Funding methodology.

The LSC has implemented a reduction in the number of funding streams from six to three which will reduce administrative complexities for FE colleges and training providers and provide a clearer link between policy objectives and funding arrangements. It is expected that this will result in increased access and participation for 16-18 year-old learners and increased awareness of learning opportunities for adult learners.

Customer interaction with FE system

We are continuously looking for ways to improve this, for example we have just introduced a single Helpline, Assessment and Payment Body to improve the customer (learner) experience, by having a single point of reference, single portal, and single phone number for all interactions in relation to nationally administered financial support programmes for learners.

Single brokerage service

A common brokerage framework has been introduced to ensure consistency across LSC regions, and to improve the service to employers we plan to go further by transferring the skills brokerage service to regional development agencies (RDAs) to enable its integration with the Business Link service.

New Standard

This has now been launched as the Training Quality Standard. It recognises provider responsiveness to employer needs and provider excellence in a particular vocational area; two areas that employers have told us are critical for success. It will give employers a simple and straightforward way to compare training providers.

Framework for Excellence

This is a balanced scoreboard of performance indicators that will enable learners and employers to make more informed choices and decisions, thus contributing to improved levels of satisfaction, increased retention rates, greater investment by individuals and employers, a sharper focus on economically valuable skills, and better and more relevant outcomes. A large scale pilot has just been completed and version 1 of the Framework is scheduled for roll-out to all FE colleges and work-based learning providers from August 2008.

Regional skills strategies

The LSC no longer produces 47 local plans with a range of priorities and initiatives but rather brings these together into nine regional plans. These regional plans set out how the LSC's funding will be used to support national priorities as identified in our Grant Letter and Statement of Priorities, and regional priorities identified by regional development agencies.

Qualifications and Credit Framework

With the QCA we are developing a simple and flexible structure that allows achievement to be built incrementally through the accumulation and transfer of credit. This will encourage and enable more learning that is appropriate to individuals' and employers’ needs, For 2008-09 the LSC will be encouraging providers to adopt QCF provision where it is available.

Simplification of business processes

The LSC continues to support the operation of the Bureaucracy Reduction Group (BRG) as the FE sector-led gatekeeper group for bureaucracy. The BRG has scrutinised the operation of a number of the LSC's major programmes and has helpfully identified areas where improvements could be made. For example, its recent scrutiny of Train to Gain resulted in a 10 point action plan to reduce bureaucracy in this programme. The report and recommendations of this scrutiny can be found on the BRG website

(www.fe-brg.org.uk).

In order to continue to tackle perceived bureaucracy and improve efficiency the LSC is developing a Simplification Plan. This will set out the actions the LSC is taking across a range of activities in addition to those highlighted above. It is expected that this will be published in July 2008 and I will send you a copy at that time.