“A real scandal” was how Lord Richard Inglewood, of Hutton-in-the-Forest, has described the behaviour of York-based Askham Bryan College during the closure and sale of its campus at Newton Rigg, Penrith.
During a debate in the House of Lords last week, Lord Inglewood said evidence given to the House of Commons EFRA committee inquiry into the controversy by officials from Askham Bryan had left him “stunned by the college’s evidence and its inadequacy and shortcomings”.
He said: “Since then, I have revisited the evidence, which was recorded, and have given it careful thought. It correlates with what I know has been happening on the ground and with Askham Bryan College’s behaviour, which has been evasive, disingenuous and inconsistent, including gagging its employees.”
Lord Inglewood, himself a Conservative, also praised the efforts to save Newton Rigg of his fellow Cumbrian peers Dale Campbell-Savours and David Clark, who both represent Labour.
He said that he had not previously “manned the barricades” with them because of his role as chairman of the Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, but now felt free to express his anger because Newton Rigg was on the open market.
He criticised Askham Bryan’s claims to be acting as a charity, saying: “However, in the face of what appear to be considerable financial difficulties, Askham Bryan College’s prime purpose seems to have morphed into one of preservation of itself to the exclusion of everything else.”
He finished by calling on the Government to intervene, adding: “This FE college is part of the nation’s system for delivering education and training, and the Government are the college’s principal regulator and guardian of the public interest.
“Their prime concern must be the integrity of the system and proper administration of the provision of FE, skills and training to everybody in this country, not just to those in Yorkshire.
“They should not emulate Pontius Pilate and weakly stand by wringing their hands. They should take a grip.”
Replying, Askham Bryan chief executive and principal Tim Whitaker said: “We strongly refute these claims, which are false and misleading.
“Askham Bryan College is legally within its rights to proceed with the closure and sale of its Newton Rigg campus and this has been acknowledged by the Government.
Gillian Keegan MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Education, confirmed this in a response to the EFRA Parliamentary Select Committee ‘non inquiry’ published last month.
The college has also provided further evidence as requested.”
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