Bosses ‘unable to make guarantee’ about college’s future

PUBLISHED: 16:09 08 January 2020 | UPDATED: 13:50 14 January 2020

CITB has said it cannot make promises about the National Construction College at Bircham Newton. Picture: Ian Burt

CITB has said it cannot make promises about the National Construction College at Bircham Newton. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2018

The future of a major Norfolk training provider and its staff still hangs in the balance – with bosses unable to make a “cast iron guarantee” if a buyer is not found.

Sir Henry Bellingham Picture: DENISE BRADLEYSir Henry Bellingham Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) announced in 2017 it would be leaving its site in Bircham Newton near King's Lynn.

CITB has moved its headquarters to Peterborough, however the National Construction College - run by CITB - and its 170 staff remain at the site and is seeking new ownership.

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CITB's product and services director, Braden Connolly, said: "CITB is seeking an alternative training provider to take over the ownership and running of the college. Expressions of interest in the college from training providers have been received and discussions continue to identify the right buyer."

However a spokesman added that CITB is "ultimately unable to make a cast iron guarantee should a suitable training provider not be found".

In 2018, the college trained around 2,500 students.

The move away from training has been made in a bid to serve the construction industry better, said CITB executive Sarah Beale.

Mr Connolly said: "Unfortunately redundancies have always been anticipated. However it has been a priority to minimise redundancies through offering alternative roles to as many staff as possible."

CITB was unable to confirm how many staff have transferred to the Peterborough office and how many have chosen to take voluntary redundancy.

A taskforce has been set up to secure a buyer - however the group has not met since February last year.

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This was the only meeting last year, with the stakeholder group made up of Norfolk County Council, Kings Lynn and West Norfolk Council, New Anglia LEP, the North West Norfolk MP James Wild, College of West Anglia and Freebridge Community Housing.

The group is not set to meet again until next month.

The move was heavily criticised by Sir Henry Bellingham, who was the West Norfolk MP at the time.

Mr Bellingham said that although he "understands the clear demand from the construction industry ... it is absolutely essential that the CITB work with new potential providers to ensure that they keep existing training staff at Bircham."

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