The chief executive of the Learning and Skills Council, Mark Haysom, has stepped down following claims of mismanagement over wide-spread college building programmes.
In a resignation statement, Mr Haysom commented: "During my five and a half years in this role, one of the things that I have been most proud of is our college re-building programme. Thanks to the investments we have made on behalf of the Government we have been able to change the face of Further Education in towns and cities across England.
"It is then with huge regret that I have reached the conclusion that, because of the well-publicised difficulties with that programme, I should now announce that I am stepping down from my role as chief executive."
Last week it emerged that colleges across the UK could lose more than £170m due to delays in securing the funding they had been promised from the LSC. Mr Haysom, who will receive six months’ salary of £104,000 in lieu but forgo any bonus, also presided over failures in learners’ allowances last year.
KPMG’s Geoffrey Russell, who has recently retired from the firm after holding a number of senior roles for more than 25 years, has been drafted in as acting chief executive.
Mr Russell said: "I’m very pleased to be taking on this role. My first priority will be to urgently increase the certainty and clarity around the capital funding programme but also to continue the smooth running of the LSC during this period.
"Despite the current challenges, the LSC has been a successful organisation and is in a privileged position to help people improve their lives. I am looking forward to working with the organisation, Council and staff to build on this success through to the transition to its successor organisations."
Skills Secretary John Denham said: "I would like to thank Mark Haysom for his very real achievements as Chief Executive of the LSC when the numbers of learners achieving qualifications and overall success rates rose year on year.
"However, I fully understand his decision to tender his resignation at this time, given the significant problems with the Building Colleges for the Future programme. The programme has been a major success in transforming the FE college estate and it is vital that clarity and confidence are restored as swiftly as possible. I share his view that the best way forward for the LSC and the BCF programme is under fresh leadership.
"Geoffrey Russell brings extensive experience of financial management of large organisations to the LSC. He has stated that his first task will be to deliver a swift resolution of the current issues facing the Building Colleges of the Future programme. Ministers and officials at DIUS are committed to lending him every support in this aim."
Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, added: "We look forward to working with Mark Haysom’s successor to ensure the continuation of an important programme that is transforming Colleges across the country.
"This remains an extremely positive value for money investment for the students, businesses and communities that colleges serve so well.
"These projects are particularly significant during times of economic difficulty – not least because of the level of investment benefiting the construction industry.
"We continue to look for a quick, clear and consistently fair way ahead."