The struggle over control of the cscs skills card scheme took a new twist this week as the parties clashed over its financial status,
The CSCS board, which owns the scheme, attended a stormy meeting on Monday with the Construction Industry Training Board, which administers it.
Sources close to the CSCS board said figures were presented at the meeting that suggested that the scheme was £700,000 in the black. Although the CSCS board owns the scheme, only the CITB has access to its accounts. The CITB then released a statement denying the surplus existed.
The question of whether or not the scheme is making money is crucial to its future, since it is understood that once it is, the CITB has to hand it over to the CSCS board.
This will in turn determine how the money the scheme makes is distributed. The CITB wants to use it to supplement its training grants and the CSCS want it for its own purposes.
The revenue from the cards could be large. Construction personnel have to pay £50 to obtain one and if the scheme grows as planned, millions of workers will have to buy them.
The CITB’s statement said the accounts were being audited and that the scheme would not be in surplus.
It said: “These figures form part of a quarterly report provided to the CSCS management board to give a general steer on the direction of the scheme. As we have always considered CSCS central to the Qualifying the Workforce initiative, we have run it as a loss leader and we have regarded the full extent of its losses as unimportant.”
It continued: “As was discussed with the CSCS board on Monday 22 November, the accounts for CSCS are currently being independently audited by an approved National Audit Office auditor.”
The statement added that details of the audit would be shared with the CSCS board and made public, in accordance with the CITB’s commitment to financial transparency, after ratification by the CITB finance committee on 7 December.
An independent report into the scheme, by consultant Bob Bilborough, has recommended radical changes to the way the scheme is administered. These would involve increasing funding and staff for the CSCS board, which is made up of representatives of the unions and employers’ groups.