Uncertainty at Skills Funding Agency after job cuts announcement

More than 1,000 Skills Funding Agency staff are facing an uncertain future after workers were warned of job cuts in response to the “Civil Service Reform Agenda”.

The agency is planning to “restructure” in two phases, initially losing at least 17 members of its 44-strong senior team.

As part of our response to the Civil Service Reform Agenda and the changing landscape in the funding of adult skills we are restructuring the agency,

The first phase is expected to be finished by January, when the reduced senior team will then “design” the structure for the rest of the organisation — leaving the agency’s 1,200 staff uncertain of their jobs.

“At this stage no firm decisions have been made as to the scope and scale of phase two reductions. This will be confirmed during 2014,” an agency spokesperson told FE Week.

The agency, which delivers £4.1bn of skills training through contracts with more than 1,000 providers, is based in Coventry. It has 13 offices around England.

Industrial officer for the Public and Commercial Services union Tony Conway said: “They’re [the agency] saying to us they’re not planning to close offices because the leases are not up for renewal until 2015 and later. They’re saying they will be flexible if offices do close in how people work, but it’s very early days.”

However, he added: “We’re not totally convinced the agency can deliver with that size of staff reduction.”

The announcement was made to staff on Monday (September 23) through a weekly communication and was discussed further at the agency’s annual all-staff meeting two days later.

“As part of our response to the Civil Service Reform Agenda and the changing landscape in the funding of adult skills we are restructuring the agency,” said the agency spokesperson.

“We have told staff and just started the process to reduce the agency’s senior team by more than 35 per cent. This should be completed by January.

“Once this new, smaller senior team is in place they will then design the structure for the rest of the organisation (phase two) and this should be completed in time for the start of the next spending review (2015-16).”
The Civil Service Reform Agenda, launched in July 2012, is the government’s plan to reorganise the civil service, making it “more skilled, digital and unified”.

“Many areas of the civil service are moving towards digital access [through IT systems] and that’s happening at the agency,” said Mr Conway.

“They’re saying they don’t need to talk to people directly, over the phone or face-to-face. They’re saying they can do it digitally and follow-up any questions by phone calls.”

He added: “You end up with faceless bureaucrats.”

In November 2011, FE Week reported how more than £17m would be spent on voluntary redundancy packages for hundreds of agency staff in a bid to cut long-term costs.

And in April, Business Secretary Vince Cable wrote to the agency warning that its administration budget, which includes salaries, was expected to drop £8m, to just under £85m for 2014-15.

Previous grants funding letters show that from 2012-13 to 2013-14 there was a drop of nearly £9m, to almost £93m.