In the wake of news that the Haywards Heath campus of Central Sussex College is to close, Sir Nicholas Soames MP has written to the Secretary of State for Education asking if the Government can help.
The Mid Sussex MP said: “I am appalled and deeply saddened to hear the news of the closure of the Central Sussex College in Haywards Heath. I have admired very much the work done by Sarah Wright, the Principal, and her colleagues, who have clearly done all they could to keep the College on an even keel, but it is clear that the massive debts that she inherited at the Haywards Heath campus are completely unsustainable.
“Because of some catastrophically bad decisions, the College has mortgages of £25m, obligations made prior to 2013. Clearly, this cannot continue.
“As a result, the College has to earn £2.1m a year before they start to meet their other costs.
“Of course this makes for great difficulty for Haywards Heath students even though the College will continue to operate from the Crawley and the Horsham Training Centres.
“I know that these decisions have been taken with great reluctance and deep regret for the impact on their students and staff, and the priority must be the protection of the current students so as not to damage their achievements and future prospects.
“I gather that the College is in discussion with the Department for Education and West Sussex County Council relating to the future of the Haywards Heath site, which I understand and hope will become a school.
“I have today written to the Secretary of State for Education to ask her to examine what has happened and to see whether or not the Government can assist in dealing with this.
“I was so alarmed with the financial situation of the College, in 2013, that I raised via Parliamentary Questions to the Minister, on the 14th May, 2013 and the 15th October, 2013 the issue of the finances.”
In those questions to Parliament, Sir Nicholas called for an urgent review into the financial situation of the college, and later asked what conclusions were drawn.
In his response, Minister of State for Skills and Enterprise Matthew Hancock told Parliament in October 2013 that the Skills Funding Agency had ‘worked proactively with the college on identifying and resolving the reasons for the poor financial situation which included; poor budget setting, inaccurate financial reporting, weak operation of some key financial controls, poor management of the cost base of the college, shortfalls in income generation, poor leadership and weak governance’.
Sir Nicholas added this week: “Once again I am devastated to hear this news on behalf of the local community and I will be fully involved in working with the Government and local colleagues to see what can be done for the future.”