IWC challenge school’s claims, insisting Christ the King College responsible for lease liability

The battle between Isle of Wight council and Christ the King College has just gone up another notch with the council picking through the claims made by CtKC, claiming the school is responsible for the building lease, not the council.

ping pong table tennis balls

A row over Christ the King College’s £2.7m debt and what the Isle of Wight council say was an “ill-judged decision” surrounding the lease on their Sixth Form buildings, continues this morning.

Following the initial statement yesterday (Tuesday) by the Isle of Wight council (IWC), where they appear to be distancing themselves from Christ the King College’s current position, the school responded by challenging the accusation that they did not have permission from the IWC to enter into a lease agreement on sixth form buildings, adding that the IWC “needs to share responsibility for this situation”.

The school included a snippet from a letter written by former CEO of the IWC, Steve Beynon, which includes text that could be construed as granting permission to enter the lease agreement.

IWC reaffirm their position
Jump forward another few hours and late last night the IWC press office issued a further statement, this time reaffirming their position that no such approval was given. It’s highly unusual for the IWC to issue press releases at this time (8.54pm).

They share the entire letter written by Beynon in 2013, adding,

Responding to comments made by Christ the King College yesterday (Tuesday), the Isle of Wight Council has reaffirmed its position that at no point did it give approval to the school to enter into the lease arrangement.

No such approval was required by the school, the decision could be – and was – taken by the governing body.

The council has now released the full text of the letter (see below). Point 1 of the letter clearly states that ‘the project falls within the delegated budget and is not the responsibility of the Council…’.

Letter produced for hire company
The statement goes on and claims the letter referred to was produced for the purpose of illustrating to the hire company that the school would not be in breach of any restrictions.

The IWC said,

The council was aware that the governing body was entering into the lease agreement, it was asked by the school to provide a letter to give to the hire company to show that the school was not in breach of any restrictions in the Schools and Standards Framework Act 1998 – which it did. At no point in the letter did the council endorse the school’s plans, nor say that it was a good idea.

PwC audit critical of school
The school also stated that audits carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) found “no evidence of any financial mismanagement”.

The IWC responded by claiming that PwC were in fact critical of the governing body’s approach to the lease arrangements. They say,

The recent PricewaterhouseCoopers audit was critical of the governing body and the way they approached the lease arrangements. They were clear that the school entered into the agreement with no proper business case considered by the governors.

The school were also issued with a notice of financial concern in May 2016.

IWC: No reason to refuse extension to school provision
Going on to claim there was no reason to refuse the schools request to extend their provision to post 16 education, the IWC said,

In response to Christ the King’s point about establishing an 11-18 school, the drive for the change in age range came from the school. The governing body and the dioceses complied fully with the legal requirements and Department for Education guidance in promoting the change and there was no clear reason for the council to refuse their request.

Christ the King College has been treated the same as all other schools on the Island with regards to funding. It is correct that the school has requested capital support in the past and this has been given where it is fair and correct to do so in line with council policy.

Situation will rumble on
As the IWC appears to distance themselves from this worrying situation and the school continues to claim the IWC “needs to share responsibility for this situation” this issue is one that we can expect will continue on.

OnTheWight has contacted the school and the IWC with further questions and will update once we hear back.

The letter
To see a larger version, click on the full screen icon (bottom right).

Image: bethcortez-neavel under CC BY 2.0

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