On the positive side of the audit

25th July 2008 at 01:00

Regarding your article "Refurbished colleges face amp;#163;1bn debt" (FE Focus, July 11), I am disappointed that by concentrating on financing issues your article does not convey the positive findings of the National Audit Office (NAO) report.

This balance is addressed by Tim Burr, NAO controller and auditor general: "The sector has taken on a higher level of debt, and therefore risk, but the cost should be manageable. If the second half of the programme can maintain the success of the first, further education will be well placed to offer enhanced value for money."

The Building Colleges for the Future programme enables colleges to renew and rationalise their estate. In practice, colleges are replacing poor- quality buildings with high-quality facilities. The figures in the NAO report on colleges' financial position were generated by an automatic assessment, based on financial data supplied by colleges.

After moderation by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), according to individual college circumstances, the number of colleges deemed to be in a "weak financial state" falls by 9 to 59, rather than increasing by 21 to 89.

The LSC supports colleges at every step of the project. This includes completing an affordability assessment prior to agreeing any capital project.

Mark Haysom, Chief executive, Learning and Skills Council.

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