Decision-makers behind the new University of Peterborough “need to get their act together quickly” after a “damning progress report,” the leader of the city council said.
Cllr John Holdich sounded less positive than Cambridgeshire and Peterborough mayor James Palmer at a mayoral authority board meeting earlier today.
Mayor Palmer, leader of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, said that funding for the university is in place and that the project is on track – despite concerns that the budget may be ‘over-extended’.
But Cllr Holdich referenced a critical independent report published late last year by HM Treasury and the Local Government Association which claimed there was poor leadership, a lack of trust and major disagreements behind the scenes of the project.
Speaking as the combined authority decided to release another ££446,000 to progress the scheme, he said: “While I am grateful for this latest payment towards the university project in Peterborough I am very aware that there is a difference between money allocated in a budget and real money put into the programme.
“Much of what we have spent so far has been spent commissioning independent reports on the progress made.
“Unfortunately, the recent damning progress reviews have highlighted that those driving the project really do need to get their act together quickly, and this money will certainly help towards that, because universities in the UK are already experiencing considerable difficulties and these are invariably attributable to financial shortfalls or poor governance.
“Worryingly, the apparent troubled state of the University of Peterborough project is giving the impression of it being under threat at a time when the higher education market looks as though it could be about to shake out problem institutions.
“We don’t want to be one of them before we even get underway.”
The fully-fledged university is due to open in 2022 with a new campus on the Embankment before eventually educating 12,500 students a year.
University Centre Peterborough is currently seeking degree awarding powers so it can evolve to become the new University of Peterborough.
Mayor Palmer said: “Clearly with this next payment we are 100 per cent behind the university project, and everything is on track.”
The board voted by a majority to release the funds.
Robert Alexander, Local Democracy Reporting Service