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Minister to discuss building project funding with college for disabled students

A Gloucestershire college for people with disabilities that is fighting to reverse a decision to withdraw “essential” funding for a construction project said it has secured a meeting with the Further Education minister

The National Star Centre for Disabled Youth charity and college, which provides education for young people and adults with severe disabilities, has been hit by big cuts to the government’s £900m college building and modernisation programme.

Yesterday in Parliament, Gordon Brown said he would ask the Further Education minister, Kevin Brennan, to meet the college’s local MP, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, and representatives of the National Star College to discuss their case.

The college, near Cheltenham, is trying to overturn a decision by the Learning and Skills Council to withdraw funding of more than £6.5m for new educational, therapy, medical and residential accommodation.

National Star said its £15m-plus modernisation and development project was approved by the LSC in 2006 and the first of two “enabling phases” were completed earlier this year.

The college said its campaign has won support from politicians including the Conservative shadow minister for disabled people, Mark Harper, and the Liberal Democrats shadow minister for innovation, universities and skills, Stephen Williams.

A delegation of students and staff at the college yesterday met local MPs and shadow ministers as part of their campaign to secure funding for the construction project.

In a letter to Brennan, Harry Shenton, Student Union President at National Star, said studying and living at the college had “opened up” his world and improved his confidence.

“I hope that you can do something to help the College and future generations of disabled students who would benefit so much from the new development,” Shenton wrote.

Only 13 colleges have been shortlisted for funding for the national building programme, which has been earmarked for £300m of funding per year for the three years of the next comprehensive spending review - 2011/12, 2012/3 and 2013/14.

The LSC received 180 applications for a share of the £300m, and councils have expressed their anger after being rejected.

The delivery body ran out of cash earlier this year, leaving 71 colleges in limbo after approving 79 in principle and only having the money for eight projects.

The UK Contractors Group has previously estimated that 40,000 jobs across the construction supply chain were reliant on the 71 stalled projects going ahead.