Unexpected levels of funding applications will force majority of programmes to scale down

The government's stalled £5bn further education colleges programmes is to suffer further delays after more colleges than expected applied for new funding identified in the budget.

In addition the LSC has admitted for the first time that only “a few” of the redevelopments will now go ahead as planned, with the vast majority being radically reduced in scope even when funding is allocated.

Geoff Russell, the chief executive of the Learning and Skills Council has written to affected colleges in advance of a board meeting tomorrow which was supposed to decide which projects were to go ahead.

He warns “many more colleges have put forward a case for their projects to be considered as “shovel ready” than expected, and so unfortunately we are not in a position to ask the Council on 3 June to approve individual projects.”

Instead he said the LSC would continue to assess the bids made by individual colleges and would make an announcement “later in the month.”

Russell's letter also gives much more detail than has been previously made public of the way the projects will have to change in order to cut costs. Instead of widespread redevelopment, he says “radical” cost cuts will mean that most colleges will instead just be refurbished.

He says: “Revisions to the scope of projects could include rethinking or deferring whole projects, or components of projects … We will only consider funding complete re-builds where they are absolutely necessary, which should be in only a few cases. The more colleges can reduce scope and costs, the more of them will be able to secure funding. If they come back with more or less the same bids, we will be able to fund far fewer projects than we would have hoped.”