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Scaled-down college jobs vie for Skills Council cash

Consultancy Lambert Smith Hampton brought in to see where colleges could reduce the scope of their projects

Up to 30 scaled-down college projects are expected to be given the go ahead next month as the Learning and Skills Council doles out its emergency funding.

The LSC is meeting next week to thrash out which projects it can fund with the £300 million it was handed in April’s Budget.

Only a handful of projects were expected to be approved after the Treasury stumped up the limited amount of cash. The delivery body has a £2.7 billion funding gap having found money for just eight of 79 recently approved jobs.

But now the delivery body has brought in consultants Lambert Smith Hampton to run the rule over colleges’ ambitions in a bid to spread the £300m as thinly as it can.

UK Contractors Group director Stephen Ratcliffe said: “The LSC is talking to colleges about redefining projects. The colleges are not stupid and they know that if they want the money then that’s what they have to try to do.”

Mr Ratcliffe said he thought up to 30 colleges would be given the go-ahead for smaller projects with funding phased over the next two or three years.

In a letter to college chiefs, LSC chief executive Geoff Russell said: “The expectation is that all colleges will consider the scale, scope and costs of their projects very carefully.

“We have instructed Lambert Smith Hampton to review all of the projects in the pipeline that are now unlikely to proceed for the time being so that we can review with you their scope, scale and timing.

“These college-by-college reviews will include detailed analysis of spending on project costs… we will be very hard nosed in driving for much better value for money.”

The LSC also set out draft criteria for assessing which projects would be given funding. These are: readiness; educational and skills impact; value for money; condition of the estate; co-dependency with third parties; and contribution to local economic regeneration and other priorities.

The LSC National Capital Committee is meeting next week to score potential projects against these criteria, with regional council chairs attending. A formal announcement of which projects will be funded is expected on 3 June.

As Construction News went to press, more than 25 MPs had signed an Early Day Motion calling for greater investment in the college building programme.

Labour MP for York Hugh Bayley opened the EDM, which states: “This House notes with great concern the reduction in the BCF programme in England funded by the LSC… regrets the consequent loss of some 40,000 construction jobs at a time of great difficulty for the industry… and urges HM Treasury to recognise both the short and long-term economic importance of this programme by allocating sufficient resources to permit its immediate revival.”

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