Skills training body agrees to extend consultation

The newly established quango for skills development has agreed to extend a major consultation by three months after the NCVO accused it of breaching the Compact and marginalising charities.

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills began a consultation on its first five-year plan in June and asked for initial responses by 15 August. It initially planned to publish proposals arising from those responses in September and said it would accept feedback on those proposals until end of the month.

Ben Kernighan, deputy chief executive of umbrella body the NCVO, warned that the two feedback periods appeared to breach the Compact, which says that statutory consultations should last at least 12 weeks.

"The commission has gone out to consultation on its five-year strategy in a way that appears to be in breach of the Compact and the Government's own guidelines on carrying out consultations," he said.

Charities could be marginalised during the process because of the extremely short time frame they have to respond, said Kernighan.

"My concern is that lots of organisations have got something valuable to say because their primary purpose is to help up-skill people and make them more employable, but they will not have the time to feed their views in," he said.

However, as a result of Third Sector's enquiries, Chris Humphries, chief executive of the commission, agreed to accept feedback on the plan until Christmas.

A commission spokeswoman added that the Compact, the agreement that sets out how charities and public bodies should treat each other, had not been breached because it was not a statutory consultation.

The commission, which was launched in April to oversee skills development across all sectors, had intended that the consultation would run continuously until the end of September, she added.

The NCVO has been lobbying the Government to set up a skills council devoted to the voluntary sector and was involved in an initial feasibility study (Third Sector Online, 7 November).

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