LIB DEMS CALL ON MINISTER FOR THE NORTH EAST TO ANSWER QUESTIONS ON FREEZE ON FE COLLEGE FUNDING

February 23, 2009 10:10 AM

A senior Newcastle Liberal Democrat has called upon the Minister for the North East Nick Brown to make a statement on the regional effect of the Government's decision to suspend the Building Colleges for the Future programme after sending in an Audit Commission troubleshooter.

Greg Stone, Parliamentary spokesman for Newcastle East, said the decision is believed to threaten the viability of a number of further education sector construction programmes, at a time when many PFI deals are already facing collapse due to the credit crunch.

There are growing concerns over the impact of the crisis in the Learning and Skills Council's handling of this spending programme, and there are fears that this could jeopardise important construction projects for colleges in this region.

This represents a massive wasted opportunity to provide a stimulus to the regional construction sector.

Greg Stone said: "I call upon the Minister to provide information about the regional impact of this freeze, by identifying projects put on hold by this decision and estimating what the economic value of these schemes would be.

"The FE sector provides vital skills for economic regeneration and major capital projects such as the proposed new Newcastle College facility for renewable energy and sustainable construction in my Newcastle East constituency can provide a significant boost to local regeneration too.

"Following the Government's bungling of the Education Maintenance Allowance payment scheme to 16-19 year olds, hitting many FE students hard, and amidst continuing unhappiness over proposed LSC reforms to lifelong learning which are set to jeopardise adult education courses, Labour's record on FE is fast turning into farce.

"This is hardly joined up government at a time when the Chancellor is promising to bring forward capital spending projects to kickstart the economy."