HC Deb 17 June 1998 vol 314 c347
2. Mr. William Ross (East Londonderry)

What monitoring is being carried out by her Department to determine the impact of measures put in place by the Western education and library board to reduce the debt arising from the overspend by that board. [44741]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Tony Worthington)

The Department is monitoring the action taken by the board to ensure that it complies with the approved spending plans. The phased repayment of the advance to the Western education and library board to meet its over-commitment in 1997–98 reduced its block grant for 1998–99 by 0.39 per cent. My Department has been in very close touch with the Western board since the discovery of the very substantial overspend. There have also been investigations by Coopers and Lybrand into the effectiveness of the revised financial control systems that have been put in place. We shall keep in close touch.

Mr. Ross

Is the Minister aware that the clawback being applied across educational establishments in the Western education and library board area involves Limavady college of further education, which was receiving only 87 per cent. of the average funding when the overspend occurred? Given that the funding is still below the average level, the clawback is bound to have a severe effect on that college and others. Is that not adding insult to injury? Will the Minister do something to relieve the situation which one can see developing day by day?

Mr. Worthington

We are doing all we can to limit the impact of the overspend by the Western education and library board. Obviously, I cannot redirect resources from other parts of Northern Ireland or from other boards that did not incur the overspend. The repayment has been phased over four years, which means that the cut this year is of the order of 0.39 per cent. I am willing to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss the college of further education and Limavady grammar school.