South Thames College

Oral Answers to Questions — Innovation, Universities and Skills – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 30th April 2009.

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Photo of Martin Linton Martin Linton Labour, Battersea 10:30 am, 30th April 2009

What recent discussions he has had with the Learning and Skills Council on the funding of phase 2 of the South Thames college redevelopment.

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Photo of Siôn Simon Siôn Simon Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills

My Department has regular discussions with the LSC on the funding for capital projects and I am aware of the position regarding South Thames college following recent discussions with my hon. Friend and the college principal.

Budget 2009 announced that an additional £300 million of capital funding will be made available in the current spending review period to support a limited number of the most urgent projects. Selection of these projects must be based on objective criteria that the LSC is developing in consultation with the sector.

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Photo of Martin Linton Martin Linton Labour, Battersea

The Minister has been most helpful, meeting the college principal and me, as has the Chancellor in providing the extra funds. However, the Minister will know that the cranes and contractors are on site, so can he give any better indication of when the LSC is likely to reach a decision?

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Photo of Siôn Simon Siôn Simon Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills

I cannot give my hon. Friend an exact date, but we expect the process that the LSC is leading, to make rapid decisions on the most urgent and high priority projects, to be completed in the near future and the colleges to be given the final go-ahead early this summer.

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Photo of Angela Watkinson Angela Watkinson Opposition Whip (Commons)

The Minister's last answer gives me cause for hope that the predicament of Havering sixth form college might be resolved. That college has already spent £6 million on its capital project and the enabling works have included the demolition of a sports facility and three classrooms. These enabling works will have to be reversed if the money is not forthcoming. Will the Minister commit to the future of Havering sixth form college's capital project now, so that it has some confidence that it will make the improvements as intended?

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Photo of Siôn Simon Siôn Simon Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills

I can tell the hon. Lady that I am truly sympathetic to her predicament and that of her college. Many college principals all over the country have undertaken development and preparatory works and have borrowed and spent money on the assumption that they would be able to deliver capital projects that they now find themselves unable to deliver according to the time scales that they first thought. She knows that I will not be able to make commitments about her college now. Indeed, it is not for me to make commitments about the proposals for any college in detail. These decisions have to be made by the Learning and Skills Council through a transparent and open process, particularly in the current difficult climate. We are confident that we will get decisions on the urgent and high priority cases very quickly and on the other cases that do not make it into that category soon thereafter. Colleges that find themselves in difficulties with costs will be supported.

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