Rob Wye, Director of Strategy and Communications, Learning and Skills Council.

The Director of Strategy and Communications for the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), Rob Wye, has responded to the comments from sector stakeholders on the proposed axing of 1,300 jobs from the LSC.

In an effort to clarify the position further, he spoke to FE News about the need for a reappraisal of the structure of the LSC on a local, regional and national level and the integral part that this plays in the recently "“ launched Agenda for Change. And although he is optimistic for the future, he acknowledges that the Council may well be subject to further review in the future.

Clarifying the Approach

The thrust of the clarification, he indicated, was not to view the job cuts as a separate measure but as part of the continuing re "“ calculation of responsibilities and efficiency on the part of the LSC. The move of the whole structure was what was most significant, according to Mr. Wye, saying that the "reduction in staffing is not the starting point."

He views the cuts as part of the new, strategic approach for the LSC "to fit the purpose" that is demanded in the FE sector. There will be a closer attention paid to local LSC organisations, which interact on a more direct level with colleges and training providers in their area. The national level will be what he described as "tight", and will have the purpose of coordinating with Whitehall. It was, he says, this reorganisation that then produced the number of jobs to be lost, rather than an arbitrary decision taken for purely financial reasons.

Contracting Out?

Responding to fears from some in the FE community that these jobs will simply be out "“ sourced straight away, Mr. Wye wanted to set the record straight. The measures, he said, were designed to be about "operating smaller, not contracting out." He did, however, say that if a future review of the LSC called for jobs to be moved, or if it were determined that out "“ sourcing were cheaper or more effective, then it would not be ruled out.

This thought comes at a time when two eagerly anticipated reviews of the FE sector are due to report in the next six months. The first, conducted by Sir Andrew Foster, reports back in November with its findings; the second, a Treasury review conducted by Sir Sandy Leitch and designed to determine which skills will be required in 2020 for the British economy. Both have the potential to completely revolutionise the FE sector financially and structurally, with the consequent re "“ weighting of the various organisations working therein.

What News for the Future?

When asked what his response was to suggestions from the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) that these would not mark the end of the job cuts at the LSC, Rob Wye stated that these 1,300 redundancies are the only ones planned for the moment. He stressed that the money, a ballpark figure for which is £40 million, that will be saved from these cuts would be put back into frontline services (as called for by the Association of Colleges [AoC]) and would not be ring "“ fenced for certain sectors.

However, Mr. Wye did not guarantee that there would be no further reviews in the future "“ indeed, he called attention to the fact that the next spending review for the sector was due to be published in April of next year, which could call for further alterations. As such, he said that this did not mark "drawing a line in the sand" "“ and that whilst he hopes that industrial action does not result from a ballot of PCS "“ represented workers, these amount to some 40% of the employees of the LSC. He also assured FE News that the LSC had contingency plans in place to cope with any disruption caused by a walk "“ out.

Jethro Marsh

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