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LSC confirms cash for final two college schemes

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Walker Simpson Architects’ £27.5 million Manchester College scheme (pictured) and a new £42.8 million combined campus by RMJM in Skelmersdale, have received funding boosts from the Learning and Skills Council (LSC).

Until these latest and final handouts, only 12 schemes had received cash from the LSC which is seeking to priortise a handful of ‘shovel-ready’ capital projects in the wake of a massive projected overspend (see story below).

Follwoing the news Walker Simpson’s scheme to upgrade its Brownley Road campus, in Wythenshawe will benefit from £7.038m LSC funding.

Meanwhile Lancashire, Skelmersdale and Ormskirk College, now part of Newcastle College, will also benefit from a £32.6m boost towards its proposed campus at Skelmersdale.

‘Confirmation of these projects completes the first phase of the major review of college capital funding that the LSC has been conducting for almost a year,’ said LSC chief executive Geoff Russell.

‘We have managed the difficult task of investing limited funds for the projects that will meet the highest level of needs, as recommended by Andrew Foster’s review. I am grateful for the support of our partners in ensuring the review was successful. The LSC will now turn its attention to how future funding can achieve the greatest impact for learners and employers.’

John Walker, of Walker Simpson Architects, said: ‘Securing the LSC funding for The Manchester College’s Wythenshawe Campus is great news. It allows the practice to continue its development of low carbon spaces for education.’

Previous story (AJ 01.09.09)

BSF cash to rescue mothballed LSC sixth form schemes

Sixth form colleges, stalled in the aftermath of the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) meltdown, have been thrown a funding lifeline

The Department for Children, Schools and Families has confirmed 16 stalled sixth form colleges will be allowed to apply for cash through the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) Programme.

The news follows recommendations made less than two months ago (28.07.09) by the Commons Public Accounts Committee, which suggested some of the 131 delayed schemes could be ‘bundled’ with the BSF to get them off the ground.

Richard Harrington, executive chairman at Nightingale Associates, welcomed the announcement. He said: ‘This is obviously good news for all architects involved in these LSC schemes.

‘It’s an encouraging and promising step forward that will offer a lifeline to sixth form colleges procured through the LSC, and possibly a glimmer of hope to other stalled schemes that action is being taken to repair the damage that has been done.’

So far, only 12 LSC schemes have been given final approval by the council to proceed – albeit revised – leaving more than a hundred projects with funds following the LSC’s ‘reckless behaviour’ (see below).  

The colleges to have made the ‘cut’ are:

·  Barnsley College

·  Furness College

·  Bournville College

·  Hartlepool College of Further Education

·  Kirklees College

·  Leyton Sixth Form College

·  North West Kent College

·  St Helens College

·  Sandwell College

·  South Thames College

·  Tresham Institute of Further and Higher Education, Corby

·  West Cheshire College.

Manchester College, which was originally earmarked for cash, is allegedly continuing to work up its proposals.


Previous story: Government report recommends LSC and BSF merge to get schemes off the ground (28.07.09)

A new report by the government into the LSC debacle has recommended delayed schemes be ‘bundled’ with the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) to get them off the ground

The report by the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said ‘‘There may be scope to repackage some projects in future, for example, by bundling them together with other colleges or with schools being redeveloped as part of the BSF programme.’

PAC also claims the future of college funding has been left hanging in the balance by LSC’s ‘reckless’ behaviour.

It said the LSC was reckless in approving building projects for 79 colleges, which required funding totalling almost £2.7bn more than the LSC could afford. ‘The Council was reckless in allowing colleges’ expectations of financial support to build to levels far in excess of what the Council could afford,’ said the report.

Edward Leigh, chairman of PAC said: ‘The LSC has been guilty of a very serious failure in its management of the programme to refurbish and rebuild further education college buildings around the country. The council behaved recklessly by approving too many projects and allowing colleges’ expectations of financial support to outstrip what it could afford by nearly £2.7bn. Some colleges are heavily committed to projects on which they have incurred costs. Some straight talking is needed from the council so that colleges in this position are aware of the difficult decisions they will have to take.’

However Jonathan Herbert, of education specialists Bond Bryan, warned about hurrying to tie up the two programmes. He said: ‘This requires a lot of thought and I would caution against rushing into it.
‘The BSF programme could be part of the solution, but in our haste to find a quick fix we should not forget that the LSC’s programme did produce some quality buildings that represented good value for money.’  
He added: ‘The real question for colleges is what funding will be available and when. There is a risk that colleges will be treated as second-class citizens and their projects will be little more than sticking plaster jobs whilst the BSF focuses funding on schools.  

‘These are important projects that benefit young people and the British economy; they need a real champion within government.’

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