Quangowatch: No 7: The Further Education Funding Council

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A guide to those unelected quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations that run our lives

No 7: The Further Education Funding Council

What does it do? It has replaced elected local authorities as the source of funds for the 436 further education and sixth-form colleges in England.

Budget: pounds 2.62bn.

Who appoints its members? John Patten, the Education Secretary.

Who are they? Two of the 13 council members have a background in politics - both are Conservatives. One is Nicholas Bennett, the former Conservative MP for Pembroke, who lost his seat in the last election. The other is Les Lawrence, a Tory councillor from Birmingham, even though Conservatives have not held power in Birmingham since 1984. There are four businessmen, including Anthony Close from Forte plc, which gave the Conservatives pounds 80,500 in 1992.

Philip Head, former chief executive of the Welsh Development Agency, who resigned after MPs' criticism of fraud and errors in the agency, is property controller for the funding council.

Criticisms: The funding council is an integral part of the Government's attempt to treat further education colleges as corporations, which has led to managers receiving large pay rises and company cars. It encourages colleges to compete for students and sets a target for the number each must take. Lecturers' leaders say education is not a market but a public service.

Accountability: The removal of two million students from local authority control is one of the biggest blows to local accountability since the Conservatives came to power. No members of the funding council are elected and the public has no access to meetings and documents - as they did when colleges were run by local authorities. The council points out that it does publicise its decisions.

Send details of any quango you feel may be behaving improperly to Quangowatch, the Independent on Sunday, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.