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FE Colleges (Capital Funding)

Volume 513: debated on Thursday 8 July 2010

10. How many further education colleges will receive capital funding from his Department in 2010-11. (6688)

One hundred and sixty colleges, including 28 sixth-form colleges, will receive further education capital support totalling £407 million in 2010. In addition, a further £50 million will be invested to support those colleges that have yet to benefit significantly from the capital programme. We expect that extra resource to increase significantly the number of colleges that receive capital grant support, with potentially 293 colleges receiving capital support in 2010-11.

Will funding be available for Hadlow college’s plans for Betteshanger business park, near Deal? The business park was created by the regional development agency, £18 million was spent, and it has been left empty. It would be great to bring it into use.

It is essential that my hon. Friend and the House understand that that resource is on top of the existing investment programme, which is supporting a large number of current projects. That resource will enable real investment, bringing genuine benefits to learners and enabling colleges to plan for the future. I do not want to be unkind to Opposition Members, but it is important to recognise the disappointment that colleges felt under the previous Government. The Foster report said that that was due to inadequate management information, poor monitoring, a poor long-term financial strategy, meetings that led nowhere and monitoring that was focused on the wrong things. Now, I do not want to be unkind, but that is not good enough.

Given that we are where we are in respect of capital funding for colleges, will the Minister look very carefully at the urgent need for increased capital expenditure in Stoke-on-Trent and at whether we can apply for the £5 million to get investment in the Burslem and Shelton campuses? Our college has no reserves, and I need the Minister to address that urgently.

I cannot make promises about individual colleges, but I hear what the hon. Lady says—she makes a powerful case—and I will be happy to meet her with my officials to discuss that matter further.

May I welcome the Minister’s response and his plans to give further education colleges more freedom? Will the new freedoms that he is offering extend to capital projects, to make it easier for colleges to get alternative sources of finance?

Indeed, and it is perhaps also important to let the House know that the Government money that is available will leverage in other moneys. We want to look at all kinds of ways in which colleges, enjoying the new freedoms that this Government are determined to give them, can invest in their future. By the way, I know that my hon. Friend is a great champion of further education. I add that because he deserves that plaudit.

Will the Minister accept my invitation to come and visit the College of North West London in Brent so that he can spread some of his largesse there?

My largesse is legendary, and I can hardly wait to visit. I would make one request—that there are tea and cakes when I arrive.