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LSC moves to soothe college capital concerns

After a long delay and limited funding, the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) has announced a new needs based criteria to determine what colleges will be developed under the Capital Building Colleges for the Future programme.

After various meetings and consultations, the LSC has stated that complete re-builds will only be funded where "completely necessary".

It has asked for colleges to revise their proposals and increase their chances of funding through more modest plans.

"The more colleges can reduce scope and costs, the more of them will be able to secure funding," said LSC chief executive Geoff Russell.

Mr Russell added that his organisation did not underestimate the depth of concern that exists.

The chief executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC), Martin Doel, highlighted his concern, saying he understands the need for careful and considered application of criteria, but a further delay is not helpful.

"We would like the LSC to set out exactly when they’ll be making this announcement and we hope it will be soon," said Mr Doel.

Mr Russell said that the LSC is working as fast as appropriate and that it has begun implementing the recommendations in the Foster Report.

The Budget in April confirmed around £750 million in funds for new projects to be agreed.

However, this sum is not enough, according to Mr Russell, who says that costs of projects in development are far greater.

As a result, new prioritisation and selection criteria will determine which colleges will receive the coveted funding. For instance, health and safety issues might help a college to score highly on the criteria table.

Other examples that have been identified are dependency on another infrastructure development, or loss of 3rd party income.

Independent consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) have designed a prioritisation criteria so ‘ready’ projects can be assessed. Council are expected to revise evidence collated by PWC in June to decide which college funding will go ahead.

Mr Russell signified that the programme is ongoing and will receive support from the government over the next five years.

"Recognising the long-term nature of capital projects, the Government are planning a continuing FE capital investment programme in future years, with a planning assumption of £300m a year from 2011-12 to 2013-14 to be confirmed at the next Spending Review," he said.

Sophie Knowles

(Pictured: Geoff Russell, chief executive of the Learning and Skills Council)


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