From education to employment

Livingstone Wants Capital’s Five LSCs Absorbed into Single Pan-London Body

London Mayor Ken Livingstone has published proposals for a radical restructuring of further education funding in the city that would see its five local Learning and Skills Councils (LSCs) absorbed into a single body reporting directly to him.

The proposals, which involve the new agency being “un-coupled” from the national LSC, are part of Livingstone’s response to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister’s (ODPM) review of powers for the Mayor and Greater London Authority. Mr. Livingstone has put forward ideas for a range measures that would increase the devolution of power to London government.

Wales Music

The Mayor’s plans for learning and skills strongly echo the recent restructuring in devolved Wales, which saw ELWa – the Welsh equivalent of the LSC – absorbed into the Assembly government. He believes that reorganisation is required “to address the serious need to re-skill Londoners to compete in the new economy, particularly in preparation for the Olympics.”

In a statement released by the ODPM when it announced details of the review, Mr Livingstone pressed for greater devolution across the board. “If London is to sustain its position as the power house of the national economy, and offer the best deal for Londoners, then now is the time to bring more powers closer to the people of the capital,” he said.

London is home to some of Britain’s richest residents as well as many of its poorest. It is the largest metropolitan area in Western Europe, and its sprawling urban population is one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse in the world. This mix produces a huge base of skills that can be tapped into and creates a unique set of skills-gaps that need to be plugged. At present, education planning and funding is administered by London East, West, South, North and Central LSCs, and directed by the national organisation based in Coventry.

Consultation Room

The OPDM is due to start a period of consultation with interested parties – including the Mayor – which will open with the publication of a consultation document this autumn. The review will be conducted by David Milliband and Jim Fitzpatrick, and a final package of proposals should be published by spring 2006.

Given that the creation of the LSC in 2000 was a key New Labour policy initiative, it seems unlikely that the ODPM’s recommendations will go as far as the Mayor would like. If accepted, his proposals would weaken the position of the LSC considerably: London produces 17% of Britain’s GDP, and with 12 million inhabitants it accounts for nearly a quarter of the total English population.

On the other hand, the government has publicly supported the decision by Welsh First Minister Rhodri Morgan to take over education funding powers in Wales, and with a population three times the size, the case for these powers being devolved to London is arguably even stronger.

Joe Paget

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