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Seaton Nick Seaton of the Campaign for Real Education says the behaviour of Quango and Council chiefs shows their disregard for the taxpayer.

On 31 May, The Sunday Telegraph reported information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

'£100m claimed by universities for lost students'  said the headline, followed by 'Universities are overclaiming millions of pounds of public funding for students who they fail to recruit or who drop out.'

London Metropolitan University was overpaid £36m by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) after it reported a drop-out rate of 2% to 3% in 2005-06. But an HEFCE audit in 2007 found the true figure to be around 30%.

Other universities involved included Lincoln, Huddersfield, Anglia Ruskin in Cambridgeshire, Thames Valley, Leeds Metropolitan, Birmingham City and Hertfordshire.

The article also noted that:  'For universities that have a traditional intake of well-qualified 18-year-olds, estimates tend to be accurate, as most students make it to graduation. But for newer universities which take many part-time students and candidates from deprived backgrounds, the estimates can be harder to gauge.'

A couple of weeks ago, it was reported that the principal of Sussex Downs College, John Blake, had told the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Select Committee that officials from the Learning and Skills Council had encouraged his College's £8 million refurbishment to become a £175 million rebuild. It was, the LSC officials told him, a 'once in a lifetime opportunity.'

Also on 31 May, The Sunday Times reported some smaller, but nevertheless disturbing claims in the worlds of state education and local government. Headed 'Travel, food, chauffeurs – quangocrats are at it too', the article highlighted claims by the chief executives of Warwick and Poole councils along with:

Graham Holley, chief executive of the Teacher Training and Development Agency, had spent £3,000 on a 'leadership conference' in Rome.  He had also flown to Melbourne for an education conference, spending £5,820 on business-class flights alone.

Stephen Crowne, the chief executive of Becta, the quango that promotes the use of computers in schools, had claimed £30,000 on personal expenses including £388 for a TomTom satnav for his car. Crowne is paid £220,000 a year.

So are the state education system (and other public services) now almost entirely run by people with no care at all for taxpayers' money, but considerable interest in feathering their own nests – and,
of course, pleasing their political masters?

Many hard-pressed voters have no doubt: too little emphasis on providing a decent service and far too much on self-interest. How did we get to this?

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