Elmfield probe results ‘with minister’

The findings of an official investigation into defunct training provider Elmfield are on the desk of Skills Minister Matthew Hancock, FE Week can reveal.

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) would not say if the report would be made public, but MPs on the Business, Innovation and Skills select committee were expected to grill the minister on the issue next month.

Committee chair Adrian Bailey said: “I understand that the findings are currently with the minister.

“I have no information yet whether it will be made public, but we will be interviewing the minister in early April. Obviously if it is not [made public] by then the minister will be questioned on the reasons for this.”

He confirmed Mr Hancock would be questioned by the committee on April 1 or 8.

The committee is also planning to call former Elmfield director Ged Syddall  and Skills Funding Agency (SFA) finance director Paul McGuire to a later hearing, but no date has been finalised for this.

Mr Syddall previously appeared before Mr Bailey’s committee in April 2012, when he said Elmfield’s entire income of £30m in 2011/12 came from public funds and defended his own £3m company dividend.

But a BBC Newsnight probe screened in October last year, supported with information uncovered by FE Week, put Elmfield back in the spotlight over its dealings with workers at supermarket giant Morrisons.

It was alleged Elmfield signed Morrisons staff up to apprenticeship programmes they had declined, enabling the provider to claim public funding for training.

A separate probe into the allegations was launched around five months ago by the SFA which has now concluded.

A BIS spokesperson said: “The report has been received and is now being considered by the minister.”

Both BIS and the SFA declined to comment on whether the report will be made public.

Elmfield went into administration in November last year owing £11m.

It was in debt to more than 180 firms, including provider Skillsfirst Awards which was set up by Mr Syddall and owed £863,550.

A spokesperson for the company said Mr Syddall no longer had any involvement in either the running or day-to-day finances of Skillsfirst.

After it went into administration, the majority of Elmfield’s business and assets were sold for £1.5m to EQL Solutions Ltd, which is 100 per cent owned by CareTech Holdings plc. It is understood the deal saved 300 jobs.

The Morrisons contract was sold to NCG (formerly Newcastle College Group) for £20,000, which is belived to have saved the remaining 50 jobs at the company.