The announcement by Education Secretary Michael Gove that future funding for Ilfracombe and Chulmleigh Community Colleges was to be withheld has stung North Devon councillors who have worked hard to promote their claims for major investment in new buildings.
Michael Gove has stopped the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) funds for hundreds of schools across the country, just as the first tranche of schools in Devon had submitted bids for major improvements.
North Devon MP Nick Harvey told the Devon Week: “Given the scale of Government budget cuts it is inevitable that many uncomfortable decisions will need to be taken in the coming months and it is fair to say BSF was overly bureaucratic.
“Nevertheless this cut is particularly unfortunate given the dismal level of central Government support given to Devon schools by successive Governments that have chosen to invest more heavily in the leafy suburbs and inner cities than in our local schools. A review of how central funding is allocated is well overdue, and I believe it has cross-party support, not just in Devon but across the whole South West.
“In the case of both Chulmleigh and Ilfracombe the rebuild was to be carried out as a PFI project, so largely off the Government’s balance sheet. Therefore savings through cancellation will be quite marginal and insignificant in the final analysis.
“Education Secretary Michael Gove has promised that the end of BSF will not be the end of capital investment in schools, and that a review is underway to assess how future spending can manage to get the best value for money.
“I shall be contacting Secretary Gove and working with him so that both Chulmleigh and Ilfracombe are considered as priorities when these alternative funding streams are available. The problem of dilapidated schools will not just simply go away and investing in our children’s futures is surely one of the best investments we can make.”
Ilfracombe County Councillor Geoff Fowler said: “I am bitterly disappointed. As a town we have a great deal riding on this project and the loss of funding will have a knock-on effect on other developments to improve facilities for local students and residents. This is a crucial part of the re-generation that Ilfracombe urgently needs. A great deal of time and effort has already been spent working up the plans.”
Councillor Joe Tucker added: “It is a sad day for the parents, students and staff at Chulmleigh College for their scheme to be dropped. Having successfully fought to get the ancient leaky huts removed and the centre of the site cleared for the re-build it is disappointing that this has now been kicked into the very long grass. Even though the new mobile classrooms are a huge improvement on the old units, they were only ever to be a short-term measure while Government funding was pursued.”
(from a press release)