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MPs call for college jobs to be bundled with schools

An influential group of MPs has urged the Government to rescue on-hold college projects by packaging them together, possibly along with secondary school work.

The Public Accounts Committee today called for handfuls of college jobs to be bundled into single contracts to attract private finance. Its report, Renewing the Physical Infrastructure of English Further Education Colleges, also said secondary schools work could be included in such packages.

Delivery body the Learning and Skills Council ran out of money for the Building Colleges for the Future scheme earlier this year having funded just eight of 79 projects given approval in principle. It then received £300 million emergency funding for this financial year in April’s Budget, and has chosen 13 further schemes for funding.

The Committee said this left damaging uncertainty for the remaining colleges, and urged the Government to rethink its funding plans.

The report said: “While the Learning and Skills Council requires colleges to consider private finance or public-private partnerships as a means of funding, colleges have rarely chosen them.

“This is because the value, size and scope of projects have not generally been large enough to make them financially attractive as private finance deals. By contrast, the Building Schools for the Future programme, which started in 2005–06, groups schools into packages, making them more amenable to private financing.”

It added: “There may be scope to repackage some projects in future, for example by bundling them together with other colleges or with schools being redeveloped as part of the Building Schools for the Future programme.”