Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence

Letter from the Further Education Funding Council to the Times Educational Supplement (PAC 00-01/95)

  I am writing following your publication of an open letter on the former Bilston College from Paul Goddard-Patel.

  The reasons for the closure of Bilston College and the establishment of a single FE college in Wolverhampton are well documented in the March 1999 Melia report. This outcome was supported by Wolverhampton Borough Council, Wolverhampton Chamber of Commerce Training and Enterprise and by the Wolverhampton community.

  The cost of investigating the former Bilston College, of verifying appropriate audit trails and properly recording transactions has been high, both in terms of money and time. Throughout the process, the Further Education Funding Council's main concern has always been to concentrate on the best interests of students and to protect the public purse. These investigations, the preparation of evidence and police investigations are on-going and for this reason I am not able to comment on them in public.

  In 1999 Bilston Community College received the worst ever inspection report in the history of the FE sector. It closed soon afterwards because it was so clearly failing its students, community and financial obligations. As the former assistant principal and finance director of the College, Mr Goddard-Patel may understand that the one question many people would really like to be answered is, "how could senior management and governors of the College allow such a failure to occur?" In particular, how could the finance director and the governors, as noted by Melia, approve a financial forecast predicting a 276 per cent growth in income from £24.6 million to £68 million over a three year period?

  I have become accustomed to seeing Mr Goddard-Patel's views being repeatedly aired in public. I must admit, however, that I wonder if other readers question the frequency with which such highly individual perspectives are published. I think that more would be gained from focussing on all those staff, students and governors who have worked so hard to achieve such success in the new college. Those now working in Wolverhampton College deserve proper credit for their achievements. Let us hope that they get it in the future.

David Melville

Further Education Funding Council

14 March 2001

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