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Further Education Funding

Volume 513: debated on Thursday 8 July 2010

5. What the eligibility criteria will be for further education colleges for funding from the recently announced renewal and enhanced renewal grant schemes. (6682)

The additional investment in further education college infrastructure that we announced on 24 May will be used to support further education institutions to develop the best facilities possible and will be prioritised to support colleges that have yet to benefit significantly from the college building programme. As I announced on 21 June, the Skills Funding Agency has identified institutions that are eligible to apply for the additional funding and has issued guidance to those colleges on how they can apply for funding from both the renewal and enhanced renewal grants.

I warmly welcome the introduction of the funding, which will help colleges affected by the previous Government’s moratorium on Learning and Skills Council funding. However, independent specialist colleges, such as the National Star college in my constituency, which train some of the most affected disabled people in the country, were transferred before the election from my hon. Friend’s Department to the Department for Education. Such colleges look set, therefore, to lose out on the opportunity to apply for capital funding for the second time in a row. Is there anything my hon. Friend can do to deal with that unfair situation?

My hon. Friend has been a champion of National Star college, which does outstanding work for the learners he describes. I share his concerns. He is right about the transfer of responsibility. Nevertheless, because of the overtures and the strong case made by others, and my own commitment to learners with those difficulties, I have today initiated discussions with the Department for Education to see how we can move with coherence to a position where all colleges benefit in the way my hon. Friend describes.

In fact, is the scheme not typical of the way the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has been rolled over by the Treasury since the election? Can the Minister confirm that we invested more than £2 billion in our FE colleges and that the £50 million fund has been pilfered from his skills revenue budget and, therefore, represents a cut in future years, not an investment? He will want to be straight with the House about that after yesterday’s debacle.

Speaking of debacles, FE capital funding under the hon. Gentleman’s Administration was indeed a debacle, obliging Sir Andrew Foster to conclude that it was due to mismanagement. The hon. Gentleman knows that the FE capital that we have announced is in addition to the spend we will make in 2010-11 on capital in FE. It is time FE was given a new future, and it will be under this Government.