Sunday, 18 March 2012

University Technical College - CBC in Urgent Funding Approval Request

A tight schedule to the opening of the University Technical College at the Kingsland site, Houghton Regis, in September this year, is forcing Central Bedfordshire Council to look to early agreement of £400,000 worth of expenditure to help make the site ready.

Reports to go before CBC Executive Committee on 27th March point out that the authority will lose £111,000 per annum rental income from Central Bedfordshire College, as their use of the site buidings at Kingsland reduces. This income will not be replaced by the UTC as the government require the lease/s to the UTC to be for 125 years at a ‘peppercorn’ level.

While that loss of income will raise one or two eyebrows, the UTC itself will complement the aspirations and duties of CBC in the areas of broadenng choice, diversity and opportunity in education provision. And it is fair to say that UTC will play a part in developing the local and regional economy, and the future workforce. How big a part will not be measurable for some years to come, and it is understood that UTC students may come from a ten mile radius. Hopefully, and I say this with unabashed biase, Houghton Regis young people will be the ones that gain the most.

As to the £400,000 worth of expenditure by CBC, which augments the £6.6million worth of PfS funding, the authority is pointing out that they have this money already from Section 106 funding for new school places.

So, what will the £400,000 go on? The aspiration is to use the space currently occupied by Central Bedfordshire College, which is in Blocks 2 and 3. There are a number of present users on the site that need to be relocated; reviews of rooming requirements need to be conducted; safety and internal boundary issues need resolving; work needs to be done on the 125 year lease. The documents do sound a bit wooly as to how this money is to be spent, and if I was a Central Bedfordshire Councillor I'd be really trying to drill down into those headings.

Finally, I like the commentary in the accompanying document that refers to the implications of not providing this finance: "Given the Council’s outline earlier agreement, not proceeding could have political and reputational ramifications."

Not half!

Notes
CBC Executive Agenda Item 4:
http://www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/modgov/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=577&MId=3722&Ver=4

PfS: Partnership for Schools http://www.partnershipsforschools.org.uk/index.html
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