A lobby group of up to 32 inner-city colleges attacked the government this week for "betraying" Helena Kennedy's agenda to tackle social exclusion and widen participation in education.
Inner-city colleges at the heart of the plan complained that they are being hit hardest by budget cuts.
Jenny Scribbins, principal of South Thames College, has written to 32 colleges that recruit more than 60 per cent of students from deprived areas. "We are very disappointed with the Further Education Funding Council's response to the Kennedy report. We had hoped that it would recognise the extra costs of teaching deprived students. I have had an almost 100 per cent response rate to my letters, and we will meet soon to push forward our agenda," she said.
The FEFC proposes to add just 5 per cent to the funding of students from deprived wards instead of the 10 per cent initially proposed. Those that have done the least to increase participation will attract extra funding for only modest recruitment drives. Only Pounds 10 million goes to colleges already working with disaffected students, it is complained.
Annette Zera, principal of Tower Hamlets College, said she will lose Pounds 1.6 million over three years from an Pounds 11 million budget although 98 per cent of her students come from the poorest wards. What was to be "a Robin Hood measure" is doing the opposite, she said.
Adrian Perry, principal of Lambeth College, said that partly because of "the betrayal of Kennedy" he must cut Pounds 1.45 million from his budget this year. "Lambeth College, with 90 per cent of its students from the Kennedy categories, gets only 1 per cent benefit. This is swallowed up by other cuts. Less, not more, is being spent on the poor and deprived. It is absurd to say to, for example, Tower Hamlets College, 'you can gain access to Kennedy funds only if you raise the proportion of disadvantaged students beyond the 98 per cent you already recruit'," he said.
An FEFC spokesman said: "These colleges face cuts, but they have known that for some time. They need to come up with ways to deal with it in their plans."