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Hopeful signs in Wigan

Overall, Jim Crewdson, principal of Wigan and Leigh college, supports the LSC, which provides pound;20 million of its pound;36m funding. And generally, he welcomes the funding reforms. "There is consistent contact and we've had a lot of help," he said.

Wigan and Leigh had to retrench after over-ambitious expansion plans. It meant bigger classes, a handful of management redundancies, contracts redrawn and a pay freeze. But, Mr Crewdson says, the college is out of the woods. "This year we're looking at a 3.5 per cent rise (in funding) plus 1 per cent Teachers' Pay Initiative."

He believes colleges tend to founder either on grandiose capital schemes or management information system failures. He also reckons that many miss out on money they could claim because of the confusing funding systems.

He is calling for an LSC helpline. "The systems are so complicated," he said. "We need a lot more help - consultants make a fortune. The LSC could provide a central consultancy of its own. Why can't it make that investment?"

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