NEW HOPE FOR LOCAL FE COLLEGES
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NEW HOPE FOR LOCAL FE COLLEGES

There is new hope for further education colleges in the Midlands – including the proposed development at Pershore Horticultural College - after the Government indicated they would follow the advice of Mid Worcestershire MP Peter Luff and reallocate money to continue the part-suspended college building programme.
The college building programme was suspended at the end of last year when it became apparent that the decision to split the Department for Education and Skills into two departments – the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) and the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) – had been done in such a rush that an imbalance was left in the budgets. This meant that DCSF was left sitting on unallocated money, while DIUS did not have enough left to continue the college building programme.

The problem was compounded by mismanagement of the learning and Skills council budgets, falling property prices and the credit crunch’s impact on Private Finance Initiative funding deals.

Peter tabled a question to the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families urging him to hand over some of his department’s budget to DIUS to continue this vital development programme.

In response, the Department assured Peter that they are now working with DIUS to secure such a reallocation of money.

Commenting Peter said:

“I am glad the Government are belatedly taking steps to rectify the mess created by splitting the old education department without giving proper consideration to the consequences.

“Further education colleges are vital for the economy, and never more so than in a recession. They provide a more qualified work force, and stimulate vital innovation. The Government should be doing all it can to improve them – they are part of the solution to the present economic crisis. Without investment, it is not just the students and the colleges that are suffering – the construction sector is also crying out for work, and these vital infrastructure programmes could deliver much needed help to that sector too.”

ENDS

Notes:

Full Question and Answer:

Peter Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills on using unspent capital allocations in that Department's budget for capital projects in the further education sector; and if he will make a statement.

Sarah McCarthy-Fry: The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families is in ongoing contact with the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills about the use of the FE capital modernisation fund, which is administered by the Learning and Skills Council to support the improvement of college facilities. As it has always done, the Department will co-operate with the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills wherever possible to support the interests of learners in this country. We are discussing, with the LSC, ways of supporting additional capital building programmes in the FE sector. However, in the current spending review period, the Department's capital resources for strategic, targeted and devolved programmes for schools are fully committed. The Government's record on capital investment in the further education sector has been exemplary. In 1997 there was no capital budget for FE colleges; between 1997/98 and 2006/07, more than £2 billion was invested in modernising FE facilities and we will spend another £2.3 billion on the FE estate in the current spending review period. As the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills made clear in his statement on 4 March, there are 253 projects that have already received agreement in detail and are under way and we anticipate spending the full £2.3 billion in this spending review period. The Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills has asked the LSC to consult with the Association of Colleges and the FE sector on ways of prioritising schemes in the future programme. The Department will continue to work with DIUS and the LSC to bring the benefits of the capital modernisation programme to as many young people as possible.


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