Northamptonshire county council to lead £1m construction skills prison project

Wellingborough's former prison closed six years ago and a new one is now being built.
Wellingborough's former prison closed six years ago and a new one is now being built.

Northamptonshire County Council is proposing to take over the running of a £1m construction skills project in the new Wellingborough Prison to stop the scheme failing.

The authority has offered to take the lead after construction firm Kier, which was awarded the contract by the Construction Skills Training Board (CITB), said it can no longer manage the scheme.

The construction skills centre would be located at the prison, which is currently being rebuilt, and would see 800 people trained.

Courses would be aimed at the unemployed, ex-offenders, ex-military and people at risk of redundancy, with training in a range of areas.

A report to go before the council’s cabinet next Tuesday (Jan 16) says that if NCC does not take over then the centre will be in jeopardy.

The report says: “Since being awarded the grant however, Kier have indicated to the CITB that they are no longer able to manage the project as lead partner. However, it is understood that they do remain committed to delivering components of the project, specifically the provision of the training hub itself and the related training outputs. There is consequently a serious risk that the funding will be lost if a suitable alternative lead organisation cannot be identified.

“Although NCC has not had any previous involvement in the Construction Skills Centre project, it has successfully undertaken a wide variety of roles which mean that it is potentially well-equipped to take on the role of lead partner. There are also a shortage of other options. Indeed, it is understood that CITB have also considered other local authorities, but they were either unable, or unwilling, to take on the role.”

The £1m funding includes the cost of the modular building, training costs and project management. There will be £60,000 towards the cost of a project manager.

County council cabinet member for transport, highways, environment and public protection Cllr Ian Morris said: “It’s widely recognised that there is a skills shortage in the construction industry, so this pioneering project would help address that gap.

“Not only that but it would also be helping people in society who are under-represented in that sector, which would also be of huge benefit.

“I’m delighted that the county council can play a key role in taking this project forward with our partners and it goes to show just what can be achieved when we work collaboratively.”

The Ministry of Justice is building the new prison on the site of the former prison which was closed down in six years ago.