LIBERAL Democrats campaigners have raised fresh concerns over South Essex College’s proposed move, citing fears over the college’s finances.
Ben Williams, chairman of Basildon, Billericay and Thurrock Liberal Democrats, has penned an open letter to Basildon Council leader Phil Turner, believing the college still needs to “get its house in order.”
Government reports show that South Essex College is on a watch list over its financial health, having been issued with a Notice of Concern by the Skills Funding Agency back in November.
A new college is the centrepiece of Basildon Council's town centre masterplan, published in 2012.
It would also move Basildon Market to St Martin’s Square, making way for the campus.
Contractors have started work to create a service, delivery and management area for the new market on the existing Basildon Centre ground level car park.
Mr Williams has written to the leader Mr Turner, requesting assurances over finances, after Essex County Council invested £1.75 million into the project and called for “no further cost to the public purse.”
He said: “This must raise serious concerns over the financial viability of the town centre move if the college hasn't got its own finances in order.
“Last year Essex County Council ploughed £1.75 million into the project because of a cash shortfall, despite original assurances the partnership with the college would be cash neutral.
“The government clearly continues to have serious concerns about the financial health of South Essex College.
“Local people deserve to know what is going on and an assurance that this unnecessary and disruptive move isn’t going to cost them a penny more.”
In response, Phil Turner, leader of Basildon Council said: “Relocating South Essex College into Basildon town centre is a key priority for the council and we are committed to working with the college to provide excellent education opportunities for our young people.
“Construction work to relocate Basildon market into St Martin’s Square is currently underway and will be completed by the end of this year.
“This will provide vacant possession of the current market site to enable the construction of the new college to start next year.
“Finance for the construction of the new college is in place and is secured through legal agreements and we are very excited to be working with the college on this exciting and transformational project.”