Foster to sort college renovation problems

30th January 2009 at 00:00
Sir Andrew Foster, who chaired the 2004 review of the future of further education, has been called on to find out what has gone wrong with the multibillion-pound Building Colleges for the Future scheme.

He will examine why the Learning and Skills Council has had to halt decisions on the pound;2.3 billion initiative for three months, following huge demand for funding.

Sir Andrew's appointment, by John Denham, the Skills Secretary, and the council, comes as concerns grow that many colleges may face far longer delays to projects. This could create financial difficulties for some, as architects' and other bills mount.

Regional LSC officials have been consulting principals who have projects in the pipeline. Principals have told FE Focus that LSC officials have explored the possibility of delays of up to two years that would take funding for the works outside this public spending round and beyond the next general election.

Mark Haysom, chief executive of the LSC, said: "Before making any new plans, colleges should meet their local LSC to discuss financial support available so that they avoid unnecessary costs in the process."

Chris Banks, the LSC chairman, said of Sir Andrew's review: "His recommendations will assist with future financial planning and inform how the programme's effectiveness can be improved."

The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills said colleges had become "increasingly ambitious" in the size of their projects, creating more demand for capital. Over the first year of the initiative, the average bid for cash rose from pound;12 million to pound;40 million.

Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said the programme had been a victim of its own success, leading to demand outstripping available budget.

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