Funding council's pound;41m 'mistake'

20th April 2001 at 01:00
THE Further Education Funding Council - a body that no longer exists - has given more than pound;41million to a college that no longer exists.

Determined to go out in a blaze of glory the FEFC gave pound;41,287,358 to Bilston Community College in its 1999-2000 final funding allocations. These were the last allocations made by the council just days before it gave way to the Learning and Skills Council. It was the biggest amount given to any college in the sector.

Bilston Community College, in the West Midlands, was closed on September 30, 1999, under a dissolution order. It had received the worst inspection report of any college - at that stage - and closed with debts of more than pound;10m.

It was taken over by Wulfrun College, and the new organisation became Wolverhampton College. This week the Learning and Skills Council, successor to the FEFC, spent an anxious day trying to find anyone who knew why a college which does not exist was given such a huge amount of money. And for most of the day - pressed by FE Focus for a response - it was an answer that did not exist.

And ten it came. As The TES went to a press a spokesman said: "There has been a printing cock-up. It should never have been there. It was 100 per cent more than Bilston would have got.

"God knows where this pound;41m came from. It is a 'whoops'. It should never have appeared. I do apologise. We have no idea how it got there. It does not bear any relevance to anything."

The new Wolverhampton College has been given a grant of more than pound;24m - which incorporates money that would have gone to Bilston, as well as funds for itself.

The story gets even more curious. Last February, Paul Goddard-Patel, Bilston's former finance director, estimated that the cost of closing the college could be as high as pound;65m. Now add pound;41m to pound;24m and you get...

Mr Goddard-Patel said this week: "This is a very 'curious' mistake. I find it incredible that a figure of this kind, coincidentally fairly close to a calculated figure, is a mistake. What would the funding council have said if a college had made a pound;41m mistake?" As The TES went to press the information was still on its website.

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