Consultants expecting work until 2012 will only be offered projects for next three years

A £1.6bn framework for consultants and architects working on further education colleges is set to be ended a year earlier than planned.

More than 20 firms were this week due to be appointed to the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) frameworks, which were originally due to run until January 2012.

However, after a government decision to replace the LSC with two smaller quangos by the end of 2010, firms are understood to have been told that there is no certainty that the agreements will continue beyond that date.

The revelation is the second blow to those bidding for the frameworks.

A preliminary list of those appointed was leaked in February, revealing that several large consultants, including Gardiner & Theobald and EC Harris, had failed to make the cut. Some of these companies then appealed, which has led to a six-week delay in confirming appointments.

A source at one consultant said: “It’s a shame when firms have faced such a struggle to get on the framework in the first place. The LSC has also acted as a centre for best practice, despite its inefficiencies, and it would be a shame if that role were lost.”

Firms including Gleeds, Davis Langdon, Faithful + Gould and Mace are understood to have won places on the framework.

Local education authorities will work with the new quangos, one of which is responsible for adult education and the other for the education of young people, to deliver college buildings after the LSC is abolished.

An LSC spokesperson said final appointments to the framework were likely to be made this week. She said: “We’re unable to confirm any further details on the future of the framework as a consultation [within government] is still taking place.”

The LSC manages the further education estate in the UK.

It is understood that colleges that do not use consultants listed on the frameworks may miss out on LSC funding for costs and feasibility studies. All college work above £5m is expected to be procured through the system.