Fashion skills council claims licence was not properly reviewed by UKCES

A sector skills council threatened with closure is “incensed” and has accused the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) of failing to assess it properly during the relicensing process.

Skillfast UK, which covers the fashion and textiles sector, did not meet the standards required to get its license automatically renewed, according to UKCES, and it will be subject to a separate consultation with ministers regarding its future. It could be disbanded or forced to merge with other quangos.

In July last year, the UKCES announced that all 25 sector skills councils (SSCs) would have their licences reviewed to check they were fully meeting employers’ demands.

But a spokeswoman for Skillfast, which employs 31 staff, claimed the review findings were inadequate.

She told Personnel Today: “Skillfast is deeply concerned and incensed that the evidence shows the review findings were flawed. Reviewers from the National Audit Office (NAO) did not consider all the proper evidence or interview all the right people before making their recommendation.”

She added that the body submitted an appeal that was not taken into account, and claimed the UKCES was prematurely taking steps to close the organisation.

“We discovered the commission has been talking to other SSCs about which part they’d like to cherry pick from us. We have to wait for the ministers’ final decision but the commission is already keenly pursuing arrangements for our wind up,” she said.

However, the UKCES said the accusations were “unfair”. A spokeswoman stressed the its recommendation not to renew Skillfast’s licence could be overturned by the government.

She added: “We haven’t gone out trying to put bits of Skillfast into other SSCs. It is not the case that we are taking steps to close Skillfast.”

The spokeswoman added that Skillfast’s appeal had been dealt with properly. “The appeal panel found that the NAO did take into account all the evidence and spoke to all the people they should have. We sympathise and understand that Skillfast is not happy, but the final recommendation is now a matter for the ministers.”

In May, the Financial Services Skills Council was the first SSC called into doubt after reviewers found the organisation had weak leadership and employer engagement.

The SSCs are being renewed in batches of five. This month, four bodies have been relicensed. They include: Asset Skills (covering property, housing, cleaning services and facilities management), Energy & Utility Skills (electricity, gas, waste management and water industries), e-skills UK (business and information technology), and SummitSkills (building services engineering).

The next five SSCs to be assessed are: Skills for Health (health), SkillsActive (sport and recreation), Improve (food and drink manufacturing), Skills for Care and Development (social care), and Skills for Justice (policing and law enforcement).

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