Ulster Unionist MLA, Jo-Anne Dobson, has called on the Employment Minister to urgently clarify the funding and timescale for the building of the new Craigavon campus for the Southern Regional College.
Commenting Mrs Dobson said: “I am very concerned at news that money earmarked for the new Craigavon Further Education campus has been unspent and surrendered by the Department of Employment and Learning, in the November monitoring process.
“The estimated start date for construction has been moved back to August 2017 at the earliest, and only £400,000 will be spent in this financial year on the project to be built on the recently selected site near the Civic Centre and Rushmere Shopping Centre.
“What is even more worrying is that the Employment and Learning Committee have been told by officials that the Department of Finance and Personnel instructed them to use £5m of money earmarked for T:BUC (Together, Building a United Community) to get this project started. This was instead of using some of the £22.5M of borrowing which was earmarked for the project. That was originally announced on 4 July 2013 after the G8 summit as part of the UK Government and NI Executive’s joint economic pact, ‘Building a Prosperous and United Community’.
“If £4.6M of this T:BUC money has been unspent this financial year we need to know urgently if this money now been lost to the Treasury. This remains unclear, but what is certain is that unnecessary delay and the potential for increased costs have been introduced to this project.
“The Craigavon area needs and deserves a new further education facility and a new campus for the Southern Regional College would be a great boost for local schools, students, employers and the wider community.
“When the new Further Education campus at Craigavon to replace the outdated existing facilities in Portadown and Lurgan was announced in July 2013, the timescale for the project was 3 years based on using government borrowing up to 2016/17. At that time actual construction was targeted to start in this financial year of 2015/16. The site has only just been selected, but the news that the new estimated start date is August 2017 at the earliest, has come as a blow and is deeply disappointing.
“This smacks of financial mismanagement by the Stormont Executive. I am calling on the Ministers to clarify the funding and the timescale for the new Craigavon campus.”