British Council performance

11 December 2008

Public Accounts Committee report on how the British Council meets its objectives in support of foreign diplomacy objectives.

Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, today said:

"Our Committee congratulates the British Council on its achievements in promoting overseas, sometimes in difficult circumstances, the English language and the UK’s culture.

"The Council’s approach is changing radically, with the move from delivering country specific projects across 110 countries to larger projects built around 12 regions. But standardised regional products might not be sufficiently tailored to circumstances in individual countries, bringing the risk of the Council’s jeopardising its local contacts.

"This move to regional projects has contributed towards the year-on-year decline in the amount of money received from sponsorship and partners. The programme of change, which has also involved the closure of offices in Europe and the move of resources to the Middle East and Asia to reflect new UK international priorities, has damaged staff morale. The Council would do well to speak to its staff and listen to their views.

"The Council must improve its customer service. For example, the Council’s teaching of English is a vital way of transmitting our language and culture across the world. However, the Council’s courses, premium-priced and provided mainly in capital cities, are not the best way of reaching poorer, rural people."

Mr Leigh was speaking as the Committee published its 56th Report of this Session which, on the basis of evidence from the British Council and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, examined the Council’s efforts to work with whole societies, how it makes the best use of resources, and its drive to increase consistency across the network.

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