20 pc use ELS, but who owns it?

May 23, 1997

NEW figures have revealed the unrelenting drive towards the mass casualisation of college lecturers with two out of five institutions having already replaced or considering replacing permanent lecturers with agency staff.

A survey by Natfhe has found that about one fifth of colleges already use lecturers supplied by the controversial organisation Education Lecturing Services. A further 20 per cent were considering using ELS.

Some college managers are threatening to sack all part-time staff and rehire only those who join ELS. Colleges appear to have few qualms about employing ELS staff as the company was the preferred agency of the Colleges Employers Forum - the forerunner to the Association for Colleges.

Agency staff are also attractive to colleges because they are seen as cheaper to employ and offer institutions the flexibility to quickly change staffing profiles.

Natfhe believes that ELS is being promoted by employers as a way of weakening union power. It also opposes the use of agencies because their staff enjoy far fewer rights than permanent employees.

Who controls ELS?

The trail of ownership ends in a non-trading company, owned by a German bank.

ELS is the largest agency offering casual lecturing staff. Based in Nottingham, it was started in 1995 as a non-profit making company limited by guarantee. Its chief executive is Geoffrey Lennox. Company secretary and director is Richard Fielding and Timothy Parkes is registered as another director. These same directors were later to appear as directors of ELS Group Ltd, a profit-making company sharing the same address as the agency.

The non-profit making agency was set up with Pounds 5 million from John Kirkland, who owns Midlands building and consultancy firms.

Mr Kirkland and Melvin Sheldon are listed as shareholders in Protocol National Limited, a profit-making company. It was the sole owner and guarantor of ELS at its inception in 1995. Protocol National was in turn owned by Bowmer and Kirkland Limited, of which Mr Kirkland is also a major shareholder along with Robert and Sheila Kirkland.

In July 1996, Protocol National Ltd was sold by Bowmer and Kirkland in a management buy-out. Shares were sold by Mr Kirkland and Mr Sheldon, and by Bowmer and Kirkland Ltd to ELS Group Ltd, a profit-making company registered at the same Nottingham address as the agency.

ELS chief executive Mr Lennox, and directors Mr Fielding and Mr Parkes were also appointed as directors of ELS Group Ltd in July 1996. The bulk of the preference shares in ELS Group Ltd were allotted to a company called Fenchurch Nominees Ltd with another firm, Elderstreet Investments Ltd, picking up most of the remaining preference shares.

Fenchurch is not a trading company and was set up solely to hold shares for other companies. It is under no legal obligation to reveal publicly who is buying shares in ELS Group Ltd. It is impossible therefore to identify the ultimate beneficiaries of the ELS operation. The parent company of Fenchurch Nominees Ltd is the enormous German-registered Dresdner Bank AG.

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