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Gordon Brown to meet college principal over delays

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has pledged to meet with a college principal to dicuss the hold ups in the Building Colleges for the Future scheme.

Mr Brown agreed to the meeting at Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons yesterday immediately before chancellor Alistair Darling’s Budget speech.

Labour MP for Barnsley, East and Mexborough Jeff Ennis asked whether the Prime Minister would meet fellow MPs and Barnsley College principal Colin Booth to discuss delays on the college’s £50 million construction scheme.

Mr Brown replied: “Yes, I will, and I hope that we can deal with the legitimate concerns of him and his Barnsley college staff about how we can enhance the investments available to further education colleges.

“I have said before that further education colleges have got more money this year for new investment. There is a great demand for it. The chancellor has been looking at the matter and obviously will report in due course about what he can do. However, I fully sympathise with the points that my hon. Friend has made about the position of Barnsley college.”

Mr Darling announced in his budget £300 million to allow some of the 71 stalled BCF projects to get moving this year.

However, the overall funding gap for the Learning and Skills Council scheme is close to £3 billion, meaning only a small number of projects will be salvaged in the near future. Just eight of 79 projects recently approved by the LSC have been given funding to start on site after the body ran out of money.