Upper Bann MLA Jo-Anne Dobson has welcomed further reassurance that the new SRC Campuses planned for Banbridge and Craigavon will proceed despite budget woes.
Questioning the Minister recently at the Assembly Mrs Dobson sought an assurance that ‘the impact of the recent cuts to his Department’s budget will in no way affect the ability of the Colleges to staff the new builds once opened’ and she also sought further assurance that the new builds for Banbridge and Craigavon would ‘proceed as planned’.
In responding to Mrs Dobson, the Minister Dr Stephen Farry, praised Southern Regional College as being a priority and acknowledged that historically they had not received the same level of investment as other regions of Northern Ireland.
The Minister also confirmed that he was ‘optimistic that we will proceed with all three capital builds in the Southern Regional College’s (Banbridge, Craigavon & Armagh) jurisdiction.’ But when Mrs Dobson raised the issue of the budget affecting future staffing levels at the College campuses the Minister was less clear in his response. While he confirmed that the ‘resourcing will be there to ensure that all three campuses are viable,’ he conceded that ‘pressures on the FE budget’ would result in ‘some loss of job roles and job places.’
Commenting Mrs Dobson said: “While I very much welcome the reassurance I remain concerned at the potential impact of the budget on the staff at the College, and therefore its ability to offer a wide range of courses from full time to community.
“Inevitably new building’s will provide much greater opportunities for the College to enhance and increase their course offering to fit the needs and requirements of the local economy and employers. SRC have a proud legacy of providing skills and training to local people, a legacy which I fully support and one which I want to see continue well into the future. I will continue to keep pressure on the Minister to provide SRC with the resources required to deliver quality education for future generations.
“On numerous occasions I have urged the Minister to ensure that funding is available to enable redevelopment of the SRC Campuses to take place soon as possible as many had hoped redevelopment would already be underway by this stage.
“The further reassurance which I have received are good news for the people Banbridge, Portadown and Lurgan and those who use SRC for either full-time or part-time courses. New and modern facilities for the College will enhance their provision and cement their place in our community to continue to provide education and training well into the future.”