Fight begins for college development cash
HUNTINGDONSHIRE Regional College is to lobby Ministers next month in a bid to re-start its stalled �50million moves to new campuses in Huntingdon and St Neots. The moves, originally set for completion by around 2012, came to a grinding halt when the fundi
HUNTINGDONSHIRE Regional College is to lobby Ministers next month in a bid to re-start its stalled �50million moves to new campuses in Huntingdon and St Neots.
The moves, originally set for completion by around 2012, came to a grinding halt when the funding body, the Learning and Skills Council, ran out of cash for the next three years, leaving 144 projects stranded and leading to the LSC chief executive's resignation.
A report by Sir Andrew Foster for the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills has heavily criticised management and governance at the funding body.
Today's Budget announcement (Wednesday) may begin to clarify the funds available for college buildings but it will probably be some months before HRC knows the full consequences for Huntingdonshire, the college said this week.
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College principal Anne Constantine, who is urging Huntingdonshire residents to protest to Ministers and write to their MPs, said: "This is very disappointing news for Huntingdonshire. Many organisations have been involved with us in planning the new college.
"We were all looking forward to achieving state-of-the-art college campuses in both towns by 2012 to provide vocational learning, skills and qualifications as an integral part of community and economic plans for the district.
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"The Learning and Skills Council was working with us to realise these plans, and we were supposed to be a high priority for renewal," she added.
"At the moment we don't know where we stand but we are putting pressure on the LSC and the department to clarify the way forward as soon as possible."
Huntingdon's MP, Jonathan Djanogly, has taken up the case in Westminster and has arranged for the college to meet the Further Education Minister in early May.
"After telling schools and sixth form colleges how much funding they would receive next year for teaching 16-18 year olds, the Learning and Skills Council suddenly changed its mind. It failed to predict the number of students accurately," the MP said.
"It has now cut school budgets across the country by up to �350,000 for sixth form colleges and �55,000 for an average school.
"I am calling for action to ensure that local schools and sixth form colleges in Huntingdonshire will not have to turn away students next year because of this gross bureaucratic incompetence."
He is demanding that the Government come clean on the future of the 144 stalled projects.
"Just a month after reassuring schools that they would be fully funded, the Government has pulled the rug from under their feet. Because of Whitehall incompetence, further education colleges have also been plunged into financial turmoil by having their building projects frozen."
Mrs Constantine, who said HRC had never yet received capital funding from the LSC or its predecessor body, believes the cash shortage will have put the projects back by at least a year.
The original plan had been for both moves to happen simultaneously by 2012, but the Huntingdon campus transfer to Hinchingbrooke may happen before the St Neots move to the community college site.
"Huntingdonshire deserves something," she told The Hunts Post. "There's quite a strength of feeling about it.