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Call for investigation into Stourbridge College closure

By Richard Guttridge | Dudley | Education | Published:

The UK's public spending watchdog has said it will consider investigating the management of finances at an education group which runs doomed Stourbridge College.

Stourbridge College is set to close in September

The National Audit Office has been asked to look closely at the situation at Birmingham Metropolitan College (BMet), which has been criticised over its decision to close the town's college.

BMet invested heavily in the Hagley Road site after taking control in 2013 but announced the closure earlier this year to save money. Students are set to be transferred to Dudley and Halesowen colleges from September.

The college remains on course to close despite a local campaign to save it.

The closure has sparked protests

It has prompted calls from Stourbridge MP Margot James for an investigation to be held into the "financial conduct" of BMet.

Responding to a letter from Ms James, a former governor at the college, comptroller and auditor general Gareth Davies, who heads up the National Audit Office, pledged to look into the matter.

In her letter the Conservative MP and former cabinet minister said the town has been "let down by the failures of management and leadership at BMet."

She also said BMet "was, and is, on the brink of insolvency" and demanded an inquriy.

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She wrote: "The prevailing feeling in Stourbridge is that there needs to be a proper inquiry in to how this situation unfolded, who is responsible, and what actions should be taken to prevent such an occurrence in the future somewhere else."

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Ms James told the Express & Star: "They are looking into at the moment, they did welcome my letter. I went to the National Audit Office setting out my criticism of the management of the finances at BMet and the terrible decision to close our college. I was pleased to receive a positive reply.

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"They have previously been unaware of the specifics at BMet but were very focused with the FE sector and would be following up my letter with the Education Skills Funding Agency to get more information. I will be seeking a meeting with the National Audit Office.

"I was pleased with the response I received and it was a step in the right direction."

She added: "I'm acutely aware it will be no help to our young people in Stourbridge and teaching staff who have had to relocated to Dudley and Halesowen."

BMet principal Cliff Hall said: "We will of course provide any information that is requested, most of which will already be in the public domain. We have achieved a successful transfer of students and staff to Dudley and Halesowen colleges.”

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Investigations Editor - @RichG_star

Investigations Editor for the Express & Star.

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