The Building Colleges for the Future programme has been consistently panned for its spiralling cost and insufficient management.
Now a report by the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Select Committee has joined in to heavily criticise the budgeting and project monitoring of the LSC and its now defunct parent, the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS). The LSC invested heavily in the provision of new college buildings with a cavalier attitude that saw them encourage colleges to “big up” their bids for funds- with some receiving extra money “for iconic buildings when something much cheaper would have served perfectly well”.
So it is no surprise to learn that the LSC has found itself way over budget and has had to postpone payments to many of the 79 colleges it had promised money. Its budget of £2.3billion for the project was allocated almost twice-over. Furthermore, such was the enthusiasm that they had presented to the colleges’ committees that many had already torn down buildings in expectation of the work on new buildings to start.
In January 2009 the extent of the problem finally dawned on the LSC who immediately froze work on all but 13 colleges, leaving the majority with heaps of rubble or half built structures. The figures now show that £215million has already been spent on the stalled projects, £187million will have to be written off if they are not continued and a further £269million lost in the delay on maintenance and upkeep.
If this was not already a clear enough demonstration of institutional incompetence, the Select Committee also found that a consultant’s study warning of a looming cash crisis that was “shunted round committees and policy groups” and generally ignored until too late. The government was also found lacking in failing to notice the wayward actions of its quango. This is clearly another failure of the quango state. Confusion, conflicting objectives and severe delays ultimately led to an excessive and needless cost to the taxpayer.