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Colleges will be told to seek cheap construction

The Learning and Skills Council has confirmed it will ask colleges shortlisted for emergency capital funding to seek the cheapest construction possible.

Fears have long existed that colleges will squeeze contractor margins – possibly even re-tendering contracts – as they bid to get their projects approved.

A spokeswoman for the LSC said: “We will be asking a small number who have a very good chance of being funded to seek the best price that they can.”

She insisted this would not necessarily mean re-tendering projects and added: “They should not be doing anything at the moment until we announce the small group. That will likely be before the end of June.”

The LSC has asked college principals to re-scope their projects so it can spread its emergency cash as far as possible. The managing body was given £300 million in April’s Budget to rescue some of the 71 schemes that have stalled since it ran out of money earlier this year.

CBI Construction Council chairman John McDonough warned earlier this month that the bid to cut costs out of projects should not “become a race to the bottom where costs are squeezed to the detriment of quality”.