Ministers accused the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) of mismanagement yesterday as it emerged colleges could lose more than £170m due to refurbishment delays.
According to a survey by the Association of Colleges (AoC), hundreds of millions of pounds would have to be written off their capital projects if the LSC didn’t deliver the support they were expecting, and 144 building projects have already been put on the back burner as their funding gets reviewed.
AoC’s chief executive, Martin Doel, commented: "Colleges must have quick, clear and consistently fair decisions on these projects. These new buildings will benefit students, staff, business and communities across the country.
"These Colleges also play a central role in helping the country during times of economic difficulty and these very serious delays threaten to destabilise their efforts. We would encourage Government to identify where additional funds might be secured to sustain this excellent programme and allow Colleges to do what they do supremely well – respond to the needs of business, individuals and communities."
In an interview with the BBC, Further Education Minister Sion Simon said: "It is right to say that the LSC has given in principle approval to 79 colleges which would total nearly £3bn of government money and it is clear that that level of expenditure cannot be funded in the current spending round.
"We are quite clear as ministers that that’s not acceptable. We shouldn’t be in that position. This programme has not been managed properly."
However, a spokesperson for the LSC stressed it had "been perfectly clear that full funding and final approval was not guaranteed and that colleges were proceeding at their own risk".
In a statement, the non-departmental public body announced: "We will consult urgently, and as quickly as possible, with the AoC and other key sector organisations on proposals and a strategy for prioritisation for future projects."
Pictured: Sion Simon, Minister of Further Education