Page last updated at 15:19 GMT, Wednesday, 3 June 2009 16:19 UK

More delays in college projects

Building site at South Thames College
College principals had expected a decision at the start of this week

Colleges in England with building projects on hold because of a funding fiasco will have to wait longer for a decision on when they will be funded.

The Learning and Skills Council had been due to announce this week which projects were being made a priority.

But the body has written to college leaders saying they will now hear "later this month" if their bids for funds have been successful.

College leaders described the further delay as "unhelpful".

Projects at 144 colleges were put on hold after the funding body, the LSC, ran out of money.

Many colleges complain they have been left "in limbo", having invested time and money in getting their schemes ready.

We would like the LSC to set out exactly when they'll be making this announcement
Martin Doel, Association of Colleges

Some had moved students to temporary buildings in readiness for work to begin, before the scheme was frozen around Christmas.

The LSC was criticised in an inquiry by Sir Andrew Foster and its head, Mark Haysom, resigned after it became clear the body had approved more building projects than it had money for.

After the inquiry, the LSC said it was following recommendations that it should look at the projects again to decide which should get priority.

The body's council was due to make that decision on 3 June, but the letter sent to college principles says this will now happen "later in the month".

'Not helpful'

Colleges are disappointed by the delay.

Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges said: "While we understand the need for careful and considered application of criteria to determine which building projects are approved, a further delay at this time is not helpful.

"We would like the LSC to set out exactly when they'll be making this announcement and we hope it will be soon."

In the budget in April, the government put an extra £300m into England's college building scheme, to be spent over the next two years.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills said the extra funds would lead to work at the colleges in "most urgent need" and provide jobs.

She added: "The process to identify which schemes should go ahead is under way and being taken forward as quickly as possible by the Learning and Skills Council."

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