Regional development agencies should have powers to influence further and higher education provision

December 12, 1997

The regional development agencies should have clear powers to influence further and higher education provision, members of the House of Commons Employment Sub-Committee said this week.

Taking oral evidence from representatives of the Welsh and Scottish equivalents to the proposed English RDAs, committee chairman Derek Foster, Labour MP for Bishop Auckland, asked persistently if the influence of the existing agencies on education provision was "constrained" by a lack of control over funds for education and training.

Representatives of both the Welsh Development Agency and Scottish business said that they relied on voluntary cooperation from colleges and universities. "I would have assumed that money was rather important to achieving a regional education strategy," Mr Foster said.

Yvette Cooper, Labour MP for Pontefract, said that there must be disadvantages in not having control over the Training and Enterprise Council's training budget.

John Healey, Labour MP for Wentworth, said it seemed to him that the Welsh RDA was just a "broker" to help TECS and colleges and universities come to the same view. "You have no part in decisions over funding, and you have no part in monitoring the progress of providers," he said.

Eleanor Laing, Conservative MP for Epping Forest, asked if the agencies had any power to influence what is offered in further education colleges: "Do you have the ability to say to principals what you think they should be providing?" "Yes," replied Brian Willott, chief executive of the WDA, "but they do not have to listen."

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