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Explain yourself better, minister tells Wirral Met; College relocation plans come under attack.

Byline: BY ROB MERRICK Political Correspondent

AN EDUCATION minister yesterday told Wirral Metropolitan College it must do more to properly explain plans to axe one of its sites, amid rising local anger.

Speaking in a Commons debate, Bill Rammell said a "fully comprehensive consultation process" must be launched before any concentration on Birkenhead locations, at the expense of Carlett Park, in South Wirral.

Mr Rammell urged college chiefs to consider the views of the "whole of the Wirral community", on top of meetings already held with students, councillors and MPs. And, pointing to the heart of the confusion, he said: "It is incumbent on the college and its governing body to explain clearly and precisely, locally, what is meant by 'a presence in South Wirral'."

But Mr Rammell refused to intervene directly in the row over the future of Carlett Park, in Eastham, insisting: "I am actually prohibited by legislation from doing so."

The minister was replying to a debate led by Wirral South MP Ben Chapman, who has warned the two-site plan will discriminate against students unable to travel to Birkenhead.

Wirral Met College has said it is required to consider better ways to meet students' needs in order to take advantage of government grants to improve further education buildings.

But Mr Chapman, who plans to launch a petition to protest, accused college leaders of "tearing the heart" out of Eastham, a community already lacking facilities.

He told the minister: "I endorse the idea that the college should seek additional funds and grants, and that it should seek excellence, but it should not be at the cost of sacrificing such a valuable site."

Mr Rammell repeatedly stressed that the two-site plan was in its early stages, saying: "An awful lot of water will flow under the bridge before a fully-fledged proposal comes forward."

Carlett Park currently has more than 2,000 students. The Conway Park and 12 Quays sites, both in Birkenhead, have 4,612 and 2,781 students respectively.


Ben Chapman MP
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Apr 3, 2008
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