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Report slams Learning and Skills Council over 'avoidable' funding crisis

A report into the failings of the Building Colleges of the Future programme has criticised the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) for a ‘predictable’ situation

Hundreds of architects’ jobs are at risk due to delays to the £2.3 billion procurement programme for further education colleges. The firms affected include RMJM, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and Dyer (AJ 19.03.09).

The report by Andrew Foster, former chief executive of the Audit Commission, identified 79 projects that had already received first-stage approval in principle, with a requirement of £2.7 billion from the LSC, and with a further £3 billion needed for the 65 colleges that had submitted proposals for approval in principle.

Foster, who said that warning signs were clear as early as February 2008, identified the causes of LSC’s problems as an ‘absence of a proper long-term financial strategy and inadequate management, information and monitoring’.

‘I have been forced to conclude that the crisis was predictable and probably avoidable,’ he added. ‘Certainly, it could have been mitigated if action had been taken earlier. The final confusion in communication made a bad situation worse.’

Foster recommended that going forward, the programme should be focused on a needs-based rather than a demand-led approach, which involves engagement and consultation with the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills.

LSC chief executive Mark Haysom resigned on 23 March ahead of the anticipated findings of Foster’s report. 

At the beginning of March, just eight colleges were given the go-ahead for construction, with a further 79 in limbo, despite having secured approval in principle from the LSC.   

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