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Colleges funding crisis caused by 'catastrophic' mismanagement, claim MPs

A lack of direction and “catastrophic” mismanagement by the Government led to the collapse of its college rebuilding programme, a group of MPs has said.

The damning Commons select committee report has pointed the finger at the Learning and Skills Council and the now defunct Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills for the failure of the Building Colleges for the Future scheme, which it said suffered because of a “lack of responsibility”.

The report accused the LSC of “bigging up” the programme, encouraging colleges to consider greater re-building projects.

But in December, more than 140 college projects were stalled after funds for the programme dried up.

Committee chairman Phil Willis said: “The message coming down was that you had to think big, in terms of iconic buildings and complete rebuilds rather than part refurbishment.

“No-one was keeping an eye on the total money being committed and the value of applications coming forward.”

Association of Teachers and Lecturers general secretary Dr Mary Bousted added: “This was a text-book example of how not to run a funding programme. Both the Learning and Skills Council and the Government have to take the blame for this and learn from their mistakes.”

The Association of Colleges told the committee a survey of 168 colleges had found more than £215 million had already been spent on stalled projects.

It said £187 million would have to be written off if projects do not go forward, leaving most in deficit and wiping out colleges reserves.

It was announced last month that 13 colleges have now been given the go-ahead to continue their building work.