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News - 10 April 2012

MPs report on reducing bureaucracy in further education

The Commons Public Accounts Committee publishes its 76th Report of the Session on the basis of evidence from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Young People's Learning Alliance, and the Skills Funding Agency.

The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, commented:
"There are too many funding organisations in further education, none of whom accept ultimate responsibility for cutting the bureaucracy that colleges have to deal with.

Further education is delivered by over 1,000 different providers, mainly further education colleges or independent training businesses. They offer a wide range of education and training, which is funded through different government bodies. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (the Department) and the Skills Funding Agency (the Agency) provide funding for further education to students aged 19-plus. The Department for Education and the Young People’s Learning Agency fund further education for 16-to-18-year-olds. These two departments provided £7.7 billion in funding to the sector during the 2010/11 academic year. Further education providers also deliver training for people in prisons, unemployed people and some offer higher education as well.

Lavinia Newman, Founder of ABDS says:
“Differences in the information required and collected create an unnecessary burden for training providers and divert money away from learners. To provide value for money, the systems need to be appropriate, efficient, avoid unnecessary duplication, and balance the protections they provide for public money with the costs of the bureaucracy they impose.”

No one body is currently accountable for reducing bureaucracy in the further education sector. Instead, the two Departments and the two funding agencies maintain separate responsibilities based on their funding streams. The Department has a stated policy objective of reducing bureaucracy imposed on further education providers but despite this, the Department’s Accounting Officer would not accept overall responsibility for bringing together efforts to reduce bureaucracy in the sector. This failure leads to a poor value and uncoordinated approach, particularly in the case of data requirements.
Both the Department and the Department for Education, and their funding agencies, have launched separate initiatives designed to simplify the requirements they place on providers. However, the Department does not manage the simplification as a programme with a clear and consistent goal.

While the Department has required the Agency to reduce its own administrative costs by 33%, neither the Department nor the Agency has a rational view on the amount by which they would like to reduce bureaucracy in providers.

The Skills Funding Agency and the Young People’s Learning Agency are confident that the changes they intend to make in simplifying their funding systems will not put public money at greater risk. But the Department and the Agencies need to demonstrate that, in devolving control and simplifying procedures; their safeguards over the proper use of public money have not been weakened.

If you need any help and advice on Schools and or Charities, contact ABDS to discuss how we can help.

ABDS Chartered Certified Accountants of Southampton.
Tel: 023 8083 6900  E-mail: abds@netaccountants.net

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