Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60
WEDNESDAY 31 OCTOBER 2001
60. Could I revert to the tension between the
national LSC level, the local LSC level and the immediately local
which could be presented as one between national consistency and
responsiveness or could be presented as one between an arm's length
approach and an interventionist approach. Could you point up some
advantages and disadvantages of the transition from the FEFC to
the LSC arrangement reflecting that tension?
(Mr Gibson) It is not easy. If you do not mind I have
to just say that it has been six months in operation, if I may
say that in fairness and professionalism really. I think the two
things that were immediately different were the ability and the
power for the LSC to be involved in planning. Under the old system
as a Principal in Manchester I used to do a three year strategic
plan, we used to consult everybody and then we used to consult
their family very nearly, we used to send it to the TEC and we
used to get a letter back that said "This is a very nice
strategic plan, thank you very much" and that was it. We
have got to do something better than that. I think the potential
has to be there for planning in partnership, John stressed this
and so has this John. I think the difference is if you impose
a new set of rules down like that you smash the ability to perceive
the needs of the community locally and if it is done in that way
it will be detrimental. If it is genuinely done bringing in all
the partners in that geographical area to negotiate what the priorities
are, to agree the way forward, and that is happening in some LSCs,
then I think it can be very, very helpful. The difference is the
47 different ones are behaving in very different ways.
(Mr Taylor) Whenever I have undertaken a SWOT analysis,
an analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats,
I, like everyone else, have found it difficult to know whether
to put something under an opportunity or a threat and it is often
the same thing. What I see as happening is that everything is
being reconsidered. When everything, like the process by which
a new capital spend on a building, is agreed, when that is being
reconsidered there is a lack of certainty and in a lack of certainty
there is risk. Somehow we have to find a way in which we can use
the energy and the innovation from a reconsideration of doing
things without the loss of what we already have. I think it is
an opportunity and a threat, it is change, it is lack of certainty
and it is risk, but we have got to evolve it properly.
61. I am not going to let you three off the
hook. You are the Secretary of State, what do you want over this
coming year? What would you do if you were the Secretary of State?
(Mr Gibson) I listen to you as well, Chairman. I prepared
for that one.
62. Very quickly.
(Mr Gibson) I am not going to let you off core funding.
It would let down the entire sector if I did not emphasise that
again and again. I believe a lot of it could be funded from existing
monies. We always need more money but let us look at the cost
of bureaucracy, let us look at the costs we have already. As I
said earlier, I believe we have got to argue very forcibly for
our students, for student support, for student finance. I think
that we would very much welcome, and we are arranging some seminars
about this, help to get clarity in our relationship with employers
as to whose responsibility it is to pay how much because I think
there is a major workforce development challenge to it.
(Mr Brennan) I would simply add to that list, Chairman,
simplify and streamline the system and make it more effective.
(Mr Taylor) If I could just add one that has not been
mentioned before. I would like the Secretary of State to demonstrate
her appreciation of the value of what she already has in the FE
Chairman: Can I thank all three of you. It is
embarrassing when people have so much to say and such good thoughts
to share with us that I, as Chairman, am constantly pushing you
on. Forgive me, John Taylor, John Brennan and David Gibson, for
pushing you a little. Thank you very much.