Plea to amend Nolan misconduct law

January 9, 1998

THE statutory offence, misuse of public office, proposed by the Nolan committee on standards in public life in July last year, should exclude members of further education corporations, the Association of Colleges has said.

It warned in its response to Nolan, which the Home Office is considering, that the proposed offence would hinder the recruitment of college governors.

"Experience in the further education sector is that it is not easy to recruit governors of the right calibre: the introduction of additional legal hazards would serve as a further disincentive," said the association.

It argued that existing provision to prevent misconduct, which includes "extensive powers" for the secretary of state to intervene and expel governors, was adequate. The AoC also argued that the offence was originally proposed for local government and is not relevant to further education. A spokesman for the Nolan committee, now chaired by Lord Neill, said that this was not the case.

"The new offence was proposed in the context of our report into local government, but was always supposed to be considered for all sectors where taxpayers' money might be misspent. Colleges are financed by the taxpayer."

The AoC's rejection comes as further education faces more questions of its public accountability. Last month AoC chief executive Roger Ward was relieved of his duties while an independent inquiry investigates allegations of impropriety in his links with staff recruitment agency ELS and financial advisers Burkeford Reed.

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