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LSC review jeopardises college project funding

The Learning and Skills Council has pledged to make a prompt decision about money it claims could create more than 100 college construction projects from 2011.

LSC national projects director David Hughes last week said that the huge number of refurbishment jobs could be kickstarted by £210 million unallocated funding.

But he said the body was holding back the emergency cash promised to it by the Government because of a legal case against it.

Grimsby Institute has launched a judicial review against the LSC demanding more than £3m to refund costs incurred on a project that was never funded.

The delivery body fears it would become liable for scores more colleges’ sunk costs from the Building Colleges for the Future fiasco.

Mr Hughes said: “There is about £210 million that is uncommitted, and we are in discussions with the Treasury about it.

“It is quite frustrating because we want to get it out there to support, we think, in excess of 100 colleges to be able to do the sort of maintenance work, the kind of small levels of projects that would make a massive difference.”

The LSC ran out of cash last year having funded just eight out of 79 college projects it had approved in principle.

A further 14 were rescued after the Government handed the delivery body £300m emergency funding in the 2009 Budget and promised a further £300m would be available for each of three financial years 2011/12, 2012/13 and 2013/14.

Just £210m of this cash remains unallocated, but the LSC is confident it can use that money to help colleges fund more than 100 jobs.

Contractors and colleges have urged the body to commit the money swiftly to end uncertainty and allow vital work to be planned for.

The funding is also likely to be less secure if it remains unallocated after the election.

UK Contractors Group director Stephen Ratcliffe added: “These jobs would be very useful at the moment, particularly for regional contractors. The uncertainty is unhelpful.”