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LSC debacle: Funding decision 'is 'kick in teeth' say firms

None of the further education colleges drawn up by the 20 architects on the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) framework will receive any government funding until 2011

On Friday (26 June), the LSC said it was only coughing up emergency funding worth £300 million to 13 projects. The move leaves nearly 170 other schemes, also expecting cash from the government’s troubled multi-billion-pound college rebuilding programme, high and dry.

The news was described as ‘just another kick in the teeth’ by Dyer director Tim Hampson, whose practice has had to mothball nine schemes. The ‘devastated’ architect said: ‘We, like many of the framework architects, have hung in for the last six months keeping talented and motivated teams together in the hope one of our remaining projects may be released.’

RIBA president Sunand Prasad agreed. ‘This news comes at a very bad time in the current recession. It is good news for the successful practices, but a bitter blow for those that were not,’ he said.

Prasad called for an inquiry to avoid a repeat of the debacle. ‘Of course the mismanagement has already resulted in a resignation [from LSC chief Mark Haysom], but government must ensure this does not happen again. We would like to see details of the proposals and why this was allowed to happen,’ he added.

It was initially thought around 40 ‘shovel-ready’ projects would be taken forward by the LSC (AJ 30.04.09). Intriguingly, all the projects now given the go-ahead, such as Bond Bryan’s Sandwell College and Hartlepool College (pictured), are in areas with Labour MPs.

A ‘relieved’ Jonathan Herbert, managing director at Bond Bryan, said the decision to approve four of the firm’s schemes allowed it to ‘plan for the future after months of uncertainty’.

However, he admitted the practice was ‘now working with clients to try to identify further cost savings before the projects commence or continue on site’.

 

PREVIOUS STORY: 3 June 2009

LSC college building programme - the debacle continues

The Learning and SKills Council (LSC) has confirmed it will not be making a decision on which schemes it intends to take forward at its National Council meeting today (3 June)

Architects had hoped to hear today about hundreds of schemes held ‘in limbo’ following the decision to review the multi-billion building programme earlier this year.

The LSC initially said it would announce its preferred projects based on whether they were ‘shovel ready’ within three months. However due to the volume of colleges coming forward - around 200 have claimed they could start on site this summer - the LSC will now look at whittling the numbers down to those offering the best ‘value for money’. That decision is not now exected unitl the end of the month.

A ‘disappointed’ Jonathan Herbert, the managing director at Sheffield-based Bond Bryan Architects, said: ‘Practices participating in the LSC framework have been in a state of limbo for almost five months.  

‘It’s questionable whether projects can find substantial savings in two to three weeks in a way that does not reduce quality and value for money whilst increasing risk.’

He added: ‘“Bond Bryan has just completed a process resulting in 65 redundancies as a direct result of the problems with the college building programme; the length of the delay meant that we could no longer hold the line.

‘We are a financially robust business but the only way to remain so was to take this extremely regrettable action.’

 

PREVIOUS STORY: 1 June 2009

LSC college building programme faces further delays

A final decision on which colleges will be saved from scrapheap under the troubled Learning and Skills Council (LSC) building programme will not be made for another two months, the AJ has learned

Architects had hoped to find out whether their schemes would be given the go-ahead by the LSC’s National Council tomorrow (3 June) will now have to wait to see if the proposals clear yet another bureaucratic hurdle.

The LSC told colleges back in April that only schemes that were ‘shovel ready’ within three months would have any chance of progressing – a decision which damned around 100 schemes, mostly those at an early stage designed by those on the LSC framework.

However due to the number of schemes submitted, colleges will also have to prove the proposed developments offer value for money – and, according to Philip Head the LSC’s director of infrastructure and property services, a decision on that is not expected before 22 July (see document right).

Meanwhile reports in today’s Guardian suggest final approvals may not be given until August, adding yet further delays to the programme which was officially put on hold earlier this year after cost estimates for new colleges ballooned over the £1.2 billion funding pot.

Joanna van Heyningen, of framework architects vanHeyningen and Haward, admitted she ‘was not optimistic’ any of their schemes would progress.

Alan Whittingham of AD Architects said: ‘I don’t think there will be any good news for us as all our schemes were not sufficiently advanced to be at what Philip Head described as shovel ready.’

Update: In a letter sent to colleges on the 1 June by the LSC’s chief executive Geoff Russell, the council said it would not in a position to ‘approve individual projects’ on June 3 and that further announcements would not be made until at least ‘later this month’ (June).

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