March campus dead in the water but will council switch �1.5million pledge to Wisbech?
TORY councillors will meet to decide if �1.5million promised to a new campus of the College of West Anglia in March can be switched to modernising the Wisbech site.
College executives briefed Fenland councillors ten days ago and were forced to admit the March campus would not happen but hoped the promised �1.5million could still be made available for Wisbech.
However Fenland councillors have postponed an early decision, agreeing to raise it at a group meeting in November before it passes to a full council meeting for a decision.
Cabinet members will be told on Thursday that the college is “actively considering options” to deliver improved further education/higher education facilities in Fenland.
Gary Garford, corporate director, says that following the “unfortunate removal of core Learning and Skills Council funding” they still hope for a capital contribution of �1.5million from the council.
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“A separate report updating Cabinet is on this agenda,” says Mr Garford, although I have since learned the report has now been postponed to enable councillors to discuss it.
The pledge of extra funding was made by Council Leader Alan Melton in February as part of a �6 million spending spree which he described as “not just an exercise in spending our reserves but an exercise in investment”.
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Cllr Melton at the time said the council had been in talks with other partners “with a view to resurrecting the scheme and seeking other sources of funding. The challenge to others is quite simple: we are prepared to commit this large sum of money, now it’s over to you”.
The pledge was seized upon by MP Stephen Barclay, then the Conservative Parliamentary candidate for NE Cambs, who held talks with David Cameron in advance of the election.
Mr Barclay said the then Tory leader and now Prime Minister supported a March campus and agreed it would “act as a catalyst for growth.”
However with Government cutback sealing the fate for the March campus the college will be looking to see if the �1.5million is available for re-vamping the Wisbech campus.
A college spokesman said: “The March campus is not going to happen and it is now our preferred option to remain in Wisbech and develop our facilities there.
“The college is currently looking at a number of potential funding possibilities and discussions have included Fenland District Council, Cambridgeshire County Council and other organisations.
“No firm decisions have been made at this stage as any future steps are dependent on available funding. Until the financial position is much clearer it would be wrong to speculate on what may happen at Wisbech.”