Westminster Conservatives’ flagship College, the £16 million Sir Simon Milton University Technical College (UTC) is to close three years after local Tories pushed the project through despite residents’ concerns.
Westminster Labour has discovered that over £2m (£2,001,830.39) in public money was allocated to the school by Conservative councillors – despite Labour’s concerns, voiced at the time, about the building itself, the financial shortfall in the project, and lack of social housing.
The revelation comes on the back of news that Westminster Conservatives’ Marble Arch Mound project cost taxpayers over £6m.
The UTC is due to close shortly and the site handed back to the Department for Education (DfE). It opened in 2017 and specialised in science, technology, engineering and maths. Aimed at 14 to 19 year olds, in the last academic year it had only 150 students on its rolls, out of a capacity of 550. After it closes the DfE is searching for another academic provider to take over the site from September 2022.
The UTC was the brainchild of the Sir Simon Milton Foundation, a charity with close links to Westminster Conservatives. The charity’s trustees include a roster of former councillors including Robert Davis, former council officers, and current Conservative Councillor Christabel Flight. For a number of years the Foundation was hosted by the council in its offices and received additional operational support from council officers.
Cllr Tim Roca, Westminster Labour’s spokesperson for Education, said:
“What might have been a worthy idea in principle to redevelop a former Victorian school into a Technical College in memory of Sir Simon Milton became, as Labour predicted, a vast vanity project. Over two million pounds in public money has been spent on a failed school; another example of wasteful spending by Westminster Conservatives.”
Former Churchill Councillor and Labour candidate Jason Williams said:
“We constantly raised residents’ concerns about the UTC from the inadequate consultation process to the impact on local residents in Peabody Avenue, Abbots Manor and Westmoreland Triangle. At each stage our concerns were brushed aside while the Westminster Tories pushed ahead with this vanity project – even as other UTCs were having difficulties across London. We need an urgent plan for the site which includes local residents at every stage and for the council to genuinely listen and act.”