Meet the Government's college finance Tsar who - like the NAO - will review DfE monitoring

The Government today announced Dame Mary Ney will lead a review into the way the Department for Education monitors college finances and financial management.

In May the then Skills Minister, Anne Milton, told Association of College conference delegates that there would be an “external review to look at the systems within the DfE, so that problems with financial management are identified at the earliest possible stage.”

Milton said at the time that: “I want to be able to show Treasury that every penny put into further education is spent wisely.”

The announcement today comes less than a month after the National Audit Office said they were also preparing to launch a value for money review on the management of colleges’ financial sustainability, as reported by FE Week.

Dame Mary Ney, according to the Government, has “been appointed to conduct the review given her extensive experience in local government, serving as Chief Executive of the Royal Borough of Greenwich and a government appointed commissioner to Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council.”

Details of the appointment include a terms of reference for the review, which state: “In light of the financial difficulties at Hadlow and West Kent & Ashford Colleges, to review the way Government monitored and exercised its oversight of those colleges’ finances and financial management, and their effectiveness in practice, including the work of the ESFA and the FE Commissioner’s team; and to recommend changes that would reduce the risk of such problems recurring, taking account of colleges’ independence and the need to minimise regulatory burden.”

The findings from the review are expected to be published later this year and the DfE has been approached for comment.

The full biography for Dame Ney, published alongside the announcement today, reads: “Mary has had a distinguished 40-year career in local government, culminating in her serving as Chief Executive of the Royal Borough of Greenwich for 14 years during a period of major regeneration and service transformation in the borough, which won Council of the Year in 2013. She joined the DCLG Board as a Non-Executive Director in October 2016 and continued in this role for the MHCLG Board from January 2018.

“Mary carried out the Review of the Governance and Transparency of LEPs (often known as the Ney Review), which was published in October 2017. The recommendations were accepted by the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and are being implemented.

“In February 2015, Mary became one of five government commissioners at Rotherham metropolitan borough council, who assumed decision-making powers and were tasked with improving the council’s performance and helping rebuild the trust of local residents. Mary became Lead Commissioner in 2017 and oversaw the full restoration of powers back to the Council in 2018.

“Mary is a board trustee of two charities. She was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 2019 New Year’s Honours List, for services to local government.”