Answers sought over police college

Published Thursday, 13 March 2014
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Senior police officers have been called before the justice committee amid new doubts over the future of the emergency services college at Desertcreat.

Answers sought over police college
The new college had been estimated to open in 2015. (© UTV)

Plans for the multi-million pound police and fire training facility were thrown into question after it was revealed that the contractor is unable to progress with the project.

Gilbert-Ash has signalled that it cannot deliver for the money on offer.

Members of the justice committee at Stormont have now called for the PSNI to give an explanation of what has happened.

Raymond McCartney, Sinn Féin MLA, said: "What we have to do is get the senior officials and personnel in the PSNI before the justice committee so that we can go through the figures to ensure that whatever shortfall, if there is a shortfall, can be addressed.

"We have to see that college open, it is one of the main Patten proposals and also a programme for government commitment."

Work on the state-of-the-art college in Co Tyrone was due to start in June. It was expected to bring with it a major employment boost of up to 2,000 new jobs to the area.

There are now fears the money already set aside for this project may be lost.

Jim Wells, DUP MLA, said: "I have to say the handling of the Desertcreat college has been an absolute fiasco and a shambles. Initially the tender price was out by £30m and therefore they had to pare back on all the major elements of the contract and now there is this huge doubt as to whether it will go ahead at all. It's looking highly unlikely."

Terry Spence of the Policing Federation has appealed for money to be set aside for the build.

He said: "If work is stalled, then we have every right to ask that the money is ring-fenced or used in the short term to boost frontline policing services and recruit much-needed officers for a service that is under-strength and stretched to the limit."

The Programme Board of the Northern Ireland Community Safety College, has stressed its commitment to providing the training facilities for the PSNI, NIFRS and NI Prison Service.

A statement said: "However, the Programme Board has been made aware of a number of cost pressures within the supply chain regarding the tender to build the new College by FGP Consortium, which comprises FCC Construction and local company Gilbert-Ash. But in adherence to the procurement process, has yet to receive official confirmation from the bidder."

A statement from Gilbert-Ash said: "Since appointment as preferred bidder, Gilbert-Ash as part of the FGP consortium has invested considerable time and resources, working collaboratively with the Client team, to agree a financially viable way forward for both parties.

"We have now communicated our position and we await the client's response."

© UTV News
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1 Comments
Bill in Newry wrote (202 days ago):
Why not convert Ballykinler army base ? All facilities are already in situ and would save millions ! I suspect too many fingers in the financial pie in order for this to be a sensible option ?
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BRIAN ROWAN
Two comments, spoken tongue-in-cheek, nonetheless summed up the mood and the mire that is Stormont politics.
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