We need to see accountability, empowerment and evidence
City & Guilds Group calls on all parties to back long-term solutions ahead of General Election
12 January 2015
With just over four months until the country goes to the polls, the City & Guilds Group today calls for major changes to how skills and employment policy is formulated, and sets out its recommendations for a long-term, informed approach to policymaking.
The recommendations are based on the findings of City & Guilds’ recent in-depth analysis, Sense & Instability: three decades of skills and employment policy.
This review revealed that successive governments have been going round in circles and failing to learn from the past, limiting the effectiveness of policies designed to combat unemployment and boost skills and in-work training.
City & Guilds urges all parties to learn from what has gone before so that the mistakes of the past three decades are not repeated.
Ahead of the 2015 general election, City & Guilds is calling for:
- Long-term planning for skills policy that is linked to long-term economic forecasts
- More coherence between central government policymaking and local implementation
- Greater scrutiny of changes to skills policy to deliver better taxpayer value for money
- Better checks and balances to remove the risk of politics influencing policy decisions.
To help strengthen governments’ approach policy in this area, City & Guilds is calling for all parties to back the following three key recommendations:
- Empowering Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) – The current network of LEPs should be maintained for the duration of the next Parliament and established on a statutory basis. This will ensure they have greater accountability and are empowered to deliver.
- Evidence-based reform - The Business, Innovation & Skills Select Committee should conduct an inquiry in to the skills and employment system and funding over the period, reporting before or shortly after the General Election. This could then inform the next administration’s skills and training programme and policymaking approach in the skills sector.
- Greater accountability - The next Government should establish an equivalent body to the Office for Budgetary Responsibility (OBR), to provide independent and authoritative analysis of the UK’s skills and employment sector.
The recent Sense & Instability report revealed some startling facts:
- There have been 61 Secretaries of State responsible for skills and employment policy in the last three decades (compared with 18 for schools policy and 16 for higher education).
- Between them they produced 13 major Acts of Parliament
- The policy area has flipped between departments or been shared with multiple departments no fewer than 10 times since the 1980s.
- Consistent churn has created a collective amnesia and growing lack of organisational memory at political and official levels.
- Sustained disruption in the system, from machinery of Government change and Ministerial reshuffles, to low level policy ‘tinkering’ and wholesale system-wide change, has consistently and often negatively impacted implementation in key areas.
Commenting on the manifesto, Chris Jones, Chief Executive of the City & Guilds Group said:
’Now is the time for politicians to start thinking seriously about what they can offer to the many people who are concerned about the future of skills and jobs in this country.
'School-leavers, the long-term unemployed, and businesses suffering from skills gaps – they’ve all been affected by the instability in the system. It’s time to look at the bigger picture.'
‘We need to see accountability, empowerment and evidence. This will ensure policymaking in this area is more effective, and in a stronger position to respond to local and national needs, as well as our changing economy.
'I hope all parties will stay away from short-term promises in the coming months and seriously consider our recommendations.’