Careers and Enterprise Company will publish secretive board minutes

Records of meetings held by the board of the Careers and Enterprise Company (CEC) will finally be published online from this month, following pressure from MPs.

Chair Christine Hodgson and chief executive Claudia Harris were grilled in May over the CEC’s lack of transparency, during a bruising appearance before the Commons education select committee, where the organisation was called an “over-bloated quango”.

Launched in 2015, the company is leading efforts on behalf of the government to connect more young people with the world of work. Figures released to Schools Week show the CEC has so far received £40.8 million of government funding since 2015, and will get at least £18.8 million in each of the next two financial years.

We had serious concerns about a lack of transparency when we questioned the CEC, so we are pleased they have taken our concerns on board and finally decided to publish board minutes

In May, MPs raised grave concerns over a lack of evidence relating to the impact it has made so far, while committee chair Robert Halfon questioned why the CEC had never exposed itself to proper scrutiny by publishing board minutes.

A message has now appeared on the CEC website saying: “From July 2018, we will be publishing minutes of our board meetings.”

“We will be publishing on our website from our next board meeting at the end of July,” said a spokesperson. “We have always aimed to be a transparent organisation and have welcomed feedback on how best to achieve this.”

However, publication of previous board minutes is “still being considered”.

This stems from concerns that there may be a “generic issue around retrospective publication of minutes if board members were not made aware of that at the time of the meeting”.

Halfon, who presided over the CEC during his time as skills minister between 2015 and 2016, welcomed the announcement.

Robert Halfon MP

“We had serious concerns about a lack of transparency when we questioned the CEC, so we are pleased they have taken our concerns on board and finally decided to publish board minutes,” he said.

“Any organisation that receives public funding must always be as open and transparent as possible. Sunlight is the best disinfectant and the public has a right to know how decisions are made.”

Set up by Nicky Morgan in 2015, the Careers and Enterprise Company has been charged with improving access to careers advice and guidance in schools. It employs regional enterprise coordinators, who oversee a network of volunteer enterprise advisers, who work directly with schools.

In 2016, the CEC was forced to defend its record, and pledged to do more to support and train teachers, after it was criticised over its use of public funding. The organisation is expected to have received more than £70 million from central coffers by 2020.

In a response to a freedom of information request by Schools Week, the DfE confirmed it has so far handed the CEC more than £40 million in public money. The company received £6 million in 2015-16, £16 million in 2016-17 and £18.8 million in 2017-18.

Funding for the next two years has not yet been agreed, but Schools Week understands it will be more than the £18.8 million over in 2017-18.

Future funding is expected to “reflect the expanded role that the company now has implementing the careers strategy”, a DfE spokesperson said.