Beds, Herts & Bucks

Barnfield College 'wrongly claimed' £1m of funding

A college has wrongly claimed nearly £1m for students it could not account for, a government report has found.

Barnfield Federation, which runs Barnfield College in Luton, Bedfordshire, is being investigated over claims of financial mismanagement.

A Skills Funding Agency (SFA) report, seen by the BBC, says significant failures in the management structure led to improper use of college funds.

Barnfield Federation said it would comment once the report was published.

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Media captionHertfordshire Police said it was looking into whether a crime had been committed

The federation, which also runs four academies and a free school, is currently the subject of three inquiries, with the Department for Education and the Further Education Commissioner also investigating.

The leaked SFA report says the number of hours of learning claimed for did not match attendance registers, meaning the college received more money than it should have.

'Substantial pay rises'

As a result, the funding claim for 16-18-year-olds has been reduced by £464,176 and funding for the adults skills budget has been reduced by £477,000.

Hertfordshire Police said it was looking into whether a crime had been committed.

Other examples of financial mismanagement are highlighted in the report, including how "substantial pay rises" were granted to certain executives "without proper oversight".

The report says the college went from having a surplus of £1m in 2010 to a deficit of £712,000 in April 2012.

It also highlights concerns over the departure of former chief executive Sir Peter Birkett, who resigned in May.

The report says Sir Peter left on good terms and only requested a "few extra days' holiday in excess of his contractual entitlement".

However, the report says Sir Peter was given a lump sum equivalent to his annual bonus, a further lump sum "as an incentive to sign a compromise agreement", an additional month's holiday on top of his contractual entitlement and his company car.

The report says the board's handling of Sir Peter's resignation was not a "proper use of college funds".

Sir Peter says he will comment on the report once it is published. The date for publication is not yet known.

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