Letter: In defence of the enterprising spirit

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The Independent Online
Sir: Barrie Clement's article on Training and Enterprise Councils (' pounds 2bn 'swallowed' by TECs', 17 March) rehashed some stale and discredited arguments.

The notion that TEC boards are stuffed with Conservative Party apparatchiks is frankly ludicrous, as anyone who has been involved in our often 'robust' debates about the best way forward will testify. TEC directors are unpaid and give their time voluntarily to a venture that they think will make a real difference to their local communities.

The impression you give that TECs are not accountable is a very misleading one. TECs are accountable to the Government through their contracts, which are renegotiated annually. In addition, their performance is carefully monitored and details published annually in Inter-TEC comparison tables.

I was also unhappy about the references to possible conflicts of interest. You failed to point out that clear contractual arrangements specify the action to be taken in such circumstances. The Department of Employment places the highest priority on financial propriety. Your reference to Bradford TEC picked up on an isolated case that was swiftly and effectively dealt with by the TEC itself.

Like the TECs themselves, the Government has not accepted the London School of Economics' recent analysis of TECs. Many of the LSE's criticisms are misplaced, or are based on completely outdated information.

Finally, you have referred to (unspecified) allegations of incompetence. TECs have massively increased the number of qualifications gained through the Government's Youth Training and Adult Training Programmes. At the same time they have generated substantial efficiency savings, which they will be re-investing in their local economies.

Yours faithfully,

ANN WIDDECOMBE

Under Secretary of State

Department of Employment

London, SW1

18 March

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