A FUNDING crisis which has jeopardised plans for a new college campus in Huddersfield was “predictable and probably avoidable” said a scathing report.
Building projects at 144 colleges in England were halted at the end of last year because Government funding ran out.
Projects affected include Kirklees College plans to build a new campus at Chapel Hill as part of the proposed massive £175m Waterfront Quarter scheme.
Now an independent report has put much of the blame on the Learning and Skills Council.
Report author Sir Andrew Foster said there were warning signs as early as February last year – but there was “delay and confusion” in addressing them.
The LSC, the agency responsible for allocating the funds, froze the building programme in December because there was not enough money to go round during the current spending cycle for 2010-2011.
The disclosure led to fears that 79 colleges, which had already started work on their projects – requiring funding of £2.7bn – will be forced to write off millions of pounds and, in some cases, could be forced into technical insolvency.
A further 65 colleges had submitted proposals needing funding totalling a further £3bn, which were also put on hold.
They include the £70m Kirklees College plan.
Government ministers are expected to meet the LSC next month to decide the fate of the schemes.
In his report, Sir Andrew said that once the problem had been recognised and the LSC had implemented the freeze, it had failed to properly inform colleges.
He said: “At the heart of the problem is the absence of a proper long-term financial strategy and inadequate management, information and monitoring.
“I have been forced to conclude that the crisis was predictable and probably avoidable. Certainly, it could have been mitigated if action had been taken earlier. The final confusion in communication made a bad situation worse.”
Sir Andrew said: “There were warnings of overheating as early as February, 2008, but there was delay and confusion in addressing them.”