Our amendments Nos. 19 and 20 are probing amendments to test the relationship between the regional councils and local authorities rather than local area agreements. Local authorities are 14-to-19 strategy leaders, a point which was reaffirmed in the White Paper. They have duties to ensure the provision of courses for pupils aged 14 and above, to fulfil every child’s educational potential, to monitor admissions in the area, to plan the provision of school places and to co-ordinate building schools for the future funding. All those roles will be affected by any decision to close, open or merge FE colleges.
We would like a reassurance from the Minister that the Learning and Skills Council will not only consult local authorities but will actually take notice of what they say. There is a danger that when it is written intoa clause such as this, or the guidance that goes withit, that a body should consult a local authority, consultation is often about going through the motions. Obviously, if local authorities are to be the strategic lead for 14-to-19 education, we need to be quite clear what will happen if there is a conflict of interest. Will the Minister outline what would happen if a local authority were opposed to a merger of two colleges in an area, or to the closure of a college, because it believed that that would have a dramatic effect on the provision of places? What would happen if the council sought to override the local authority’s views?