Learning and Skills Council denies rumours of closure

Speculation that the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) is to be wound up in the near future has increased after the government announced a review of its performance.

Industry sources have suggested LSC management have been preparing for the worst, with temporary staff being let go and contracts being reviewed.

The council is also facing accusations that it continued to pump millions of pounds of public money into a training firm that it knew was in danger of going bust.

A major consultation on the future of the LSC, which runs the government’s flagship Train to Gain skills programme, is expected to be published this week. It will clarify LSC’s future up to 2011, a key date for the government’s skills target of reaching 2.5 million people and awarding 1.25 million Level 2 qualifications.

The review will assess the performance of the LSC and consider changes to the way it operates, a spokesman for the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills confirmed. But he dismissed speculation that it would lead to the council’s immediate closure as “absolute rubbish”. An LSC spokesman also insisted there was no truth to the rumours.

The skills council is also under the spotlight because of its involvement with troubled training firm Carter & Carter, which last week filed for administration.

Rodney Westhead, chairman of Carter & Carter, told Personnel Today the company continued to win government work despite its well-publicised financial difficulties. He revealed the firm had won Train to Gain contracts worth £5.8m for the six months to 31 January 2008, despite issuing three profit warnings.

However, David Russell, director of resources at the LSC, insisted this was not the case. “The LSC has not issued any new contracts to Carter & Carter since it disclosed it was in financial difficulties. Payments have been for training delivered.”

David Frost, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “Clearly there is an issue with the way Train to Gain operates.”

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