Building decisions expected next month

1st May 2009 at 01:00
The learning and Skills Council is aiming to approve about pound;750 million of college building projects in just over a month's time.

In order to help boost the economy, Treasury officials have allowed the funding body to commit immediately to projects that need funding from the next spending review, beginning in 2011-12. It is expected to announce about pound;500m in grants, with the remainder made up from college borrowing, land sales or other fundraising.

However, as some already approved projects are also partly relying on the pound;300m-a-year budget between 2011 to 2014, the LSC does not expect large numbers of projects to be approved after June, unless further money is released.

David Hughes, the national projects director of the LSC, said colleges that were ready to start work soon would be prioritised.

"The gateway is projects' readiness to start this summer," he said. "The good news is that we have additional funding and the opportunity to commit funding into the next spending review. But trying to build in fairness is quite difficult."

Some colleges have questioned prioritising ready-to-go projects rather than rationing the cash across all colleges, arguing that it risks repeating the mistakes of the "first come, first served" approach that created the funding shortage.

One principal said: "This isn't a question of rebuilding the whole sector eventually: there is pound;1.2 billion to spend and pound;5bn of demand already."

But others defended the decision to resolve the uncertainty quickly. Marjorie Semple, principal of West Thames College, said: "What is most important is that we have clarity so that we can get out of the limbo we are currently in."

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