Plug is pulled on East Ren college

EAST Renfrewshire council has been forced to make a dramatic u-turn on plans for a college.

The project for the dedicated college facility based in Barrhead is now “off the table”.

Council leader Jim Fletcher blamed the demise of the proposal on a lack of a “strong commitment over the next 10 to 15 years from Reid Kerr college”.

“This is a tremendous blow to the aspirations of our young people.

“We are still committed to providing the opportunities our young people need and I am delighted that we can still continue to work closely with Reid Kerr college in continuing to deliver the construction skills academy in Barrhead.

“That’s important now and it will only become more important over the coming years as austerity kicks in across the country”.

The East Renfrewshire College project would have delivered an integrated new college, library, community and conferencing facilities, an employability hub and a creche.

The centre would have been part of ambitious council plans for the regeneration of Barrhead and it would have been the first dedicated college facility in East Renfrewshire. It was estimated that 3,500 people would have studied at the facility.

Leader of the opposition, councillor Jim Swift described the decision as “inevitable”.

He said: “ERC’s support for this was always daft. If the proposal had ever had any real merit the Scottish Funding Council would have fully funded the proposal.

“Instead of seeking to add unaffordable and unneeded college places in the wrong place, they should accept that the only growth that can be stimulated is in enterprise and they should be encouraging that, not opposing it” .

The Newton Mearns south councillor continued: “Wisdom acquired late is better than never, but they should be punished for their wasting money on back-room costs that benefited none of our residents.

“We hope that another U-turn will be performed and sensible Conservative advice listened to on a business incubator to stimulate jobs”.

A spokesman for Reid Kerr college attributed the decision to “recent Scottish government announcements, including the launch of a pre-legislative consultation on proposals for the reform of post-16 Education and the Spending Review which will likely impact on provision across East Renfrewshire and beyond.

“It is unfortunate that the uncertainty surrounding the significant reform of the college sector and the cuts outlined in the spending review, prevent us from making immediate financial guarantees, required by ERC”.

The college was given the stamp of approval in November 2009, by a majority of 12 votes to eight.

Following the vote, education convenor Alan Lafferty said “voting against it is voting against education in East Renfrewshire”.

n E-mail with your thoughts on this story.