Ministers commissioned Sir Andrew Foster to carry out a review in January and the report was published on 1 April. My Department and the LSC have accepted all of his recommendations in full.
In response to those recommendations the new acting Chief Executive of the LSC immediately appointed external teams to review the financial data and work with individual colleges to ensure the information held is a sound basis for making future decisions. The LSC is consulting with the sector on the approach to prioritising schemes to help meet Sir Andrew’s recommendation to develop a “needs-based” approach. Following the Budget announcement of the additional £300 million of capital funding—this work is needed to allow the most urgent projects to be approved as soon as possible.
I have regular meetings with the Chief Executive of the Learning and Skills Council. The overall accountability framework includes formal quarterly review meetings on LSC performance, the most recent of which took place on 16 March 2009. We also meet on a regular and frequent basis to discuss a wide range of further education (FE) policy and implementation issues, including the funding of FE colleges.
We have invested more than £2 billion between 1997 and 2007 on FE capital. The Learning and Skills Council have supported more than 700 projects, in nearly 330 colleges—with only 42 colleges not benefiting from any of this investment. More than half the FE state has been modernised and even before the Budget announcements total LSC capital investment in this CSR was £2.3 billion.
Budget 2009 announced that an additional £300 million of capital funding will be made available in the current spending review period. Also, for planning purposes, we are working on the basis of a provisional programme budget of £300 million a year in the next spending review. The final level of investment will be confirmed at the next spending review.