Elmfield staff ‘still in dark’ on future as administration looms

Hundreds of Elmfield Training staff could still be in the dark about their futures more than a week after it announced that directors had “taken steps to protect the company through an administration process”.

As FE Week went to press there had been no further public statement from the firm, thought to have more than 400 workers across the UK, leaving staff uncertain if or when they will be paid.

They received an email late on Thursday, October 25, telling them salaries due the following day could not be processed.

It is understood that financial specialists Deloitte UK has been approached about the administration process, but its spokesperson declined to comment.

An Elmfield spokesperson said it had been in “daily contact with staff” but it had nothing further to add to a statement of October 24, which said: “Efforts are continuing in order to seek to preserve jobs and protect learners.

“While this is on-going, the directors have taken steps to protect the company through an administration process.”

Meanwhile, chair of the House of Commons Business, Innovation and Skills Committee Adrian Bailey said he still wanted former Elmfield director Ged Syddall and Skills Funding Agency finance director Paul McGuire to face a “no-holds-barred” grilling from MPs.

Mr Bailey told FE Week last month he would be calling the two men before the committee. A senior current member of Elmfield staff is also expected to be summoned with Mr Syddall having quit as the firm’s director amid a BBC Newsnight probe last month — although it is understood he remains majority shareholder.

Mr Bailey told FE Week after the administration announcement: “We have not yet fixed the date for the committee hearing, but it will be as soon as practicable.”

It would be the second time Mr Syddall has appeared before Mr Bailey’s committee. He gave evidence in April last year, when he said Elmfield’s entire income of £30m in 2011/12 came from public funds. He also defended his own £3m company dividend.

News that Elmfield could be going into administration followed accusations of apprenticeship malpractice on Newsnight. Its report, supported by information uncovered by FE Week, aired on October 4 and focussed on the firm’s dealings with workers at supermarket giant Morrisons.

It was alleged Elmfield received agency money for apprenticeships that employees had declined. Elmfield told Newsnight that investigations had been carried out, uncovering “no evidence of malpractice,” although a further investigation had since been launched.

Elmfield was banned from taking on new learners following an inadequate Ofsted grading in June, although the agency lifted the blanket ban last month after a positive Ofsted monitoring report saying it would assess new apprentice requests on a “case-by-case basis”.