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Thursday, 13 December, 2001, 11:31 GMT
Training providers to lobby Parliament
The Community Online opening
Boris Johnson MP attended the opening of Henley's online training centre
Training providers facing uncertain times following the closure of the Individual Learning Account scheme (ILAs) are to lobby MPs next Tuesday.

A number of training providers could now be forced to close after the decision by the Department for Education and skills to scrap the scheme, following allegations of fraud.

Training providers will meet a range of MPs across the political divide on 11 December to draw attention to the closure of community centres around the country - and lobby for a full investigation by the Parliamentary Ombudsman.

These providers - some of which are non-profit organisations and based in libraries around the country - are now seeking compensation from what they say is the government's "administrative incompetence" in its handling of the scheme.

ILA debacle

The ILA fiasco is becoming increasingly embarrassing for the government.

The National Audit Office, which scrutinises public spending on behalf of parliament and is independent from the government, has started its own investigation following the closure of the scheme.

The training grants, which were worth up to 200 off training courses, fuelled a rise in the number of centres offering vocational training, especially computer courses.

Many of those centres could face closure, with some already cutting back on staff.

Worrying times

Roger Tuckett set up a non-profit learning centre in Henley-upon-Thames, Oxfordshire, six months ago but is now "staring closure in the face".

Mr Tuckett said he had high hopes for the centre, which was providing basic computer level training for people, including many pensioners.

"Our vision was to make Henley a showcase web-enabled community. We were bringing the information society to Henley - and fully in accordance with the rules"

Mr Tuckett is now leading a campaign for compensation.

"We are so angry because the centre we created was totally in tune with the government's e-learning initiatives and life-long learning initiative," he said.

Outside chance

James Golfar is development director of the Internet Exchange, which runs 40 centres around the country.

Twenty-six of those centres are in deprived areas.

The company employs 300 people, but seven of those have now been made redundant.

He said: "If something such as the ILA scheme comes into the market place and so drastically distorts it, if you didn't get involved you would be out of business."

John Healey, adult skills minister, has so far ruled out compensation for training providers.

The government is currently devising a successor to the scheme.

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