Staff suspended over Cowes college problems

By Emily Pearce

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

 

Staff suspended over Cowes college problems

Cowes Enterprise College, which has been subject to long delays, leading to the suspension of two Isle of Wight Council staff members.

A SENIOR Isle of Wight Council officer has been suspended over the Cowes Enterprise College debacle.

The authority has suspended two staff members, including deputy director for schools and education services Janet Newton, following repeated delays to the £32m project and criticism over a lack of leadership.

Council chief executive Steve Beynon said: "Two members of council staff have been suspended, as a precautionary measure, pending the outcome of an internal investigation into the management of the contract for the Cowes Enterprise College build.

"The council’s overriding priority is to ensure the new school building is complete, safe and ready to be used as soon as possible. To make this happen, a new project team has been assembled, drawing on experience from across the local authority. The responsibility for schools capital and assets has been transferred to the directorate for the economy and environment, overseen by Stuart Love.

"The governing body and trust of Cowes Enterprise College have been kept fully informed of these developments and we continue to work closely with them."

As reported last Friday, the new school building will not be ready until the spring — six months after it was due to open.

The project, helmed by construction firm Pihl UK, has been hit by delays since the summer, when wet weather hampered building work.

The opening date has been pushed back several times and large parts of the building remain unfinished.

Mr Beynon issued a letter to parents apologising for the continued delay, which he admitted was unacceptable.

He said: "While this delay is deeply regrettable, it provides a more realistic timetable to for the work and the transfer to the new site to be completed and puts an end to the ongoing uncertainty for all concerned."

Chair of governors Alan Wells has previously criticised the council for not appointing a dedicated project manager.

He told the County Press: "The contract is late and there have been problems. I understand the council has lots of projects running, but in my view a project manager whose sole responsibility was to see this through would probably have got us a better result.

"It does not appear the contractor was put under sufficient pressure to get this right."

The school will be closed to students on Monday while equipment and resources are transferred back to the old building, where students will remain until the new complex is finished.

The council said it would not confirm which staff members had been suspended.

Reporter: emilyp@iwcpmail.co.uk

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