Safety risk closes Belfast job centre

December 15, 1995

Belfast Institute of Further and Higher Education has shut one of its buildings because of health and safety fears.

The closure of the Jobs Skills Centre came as a report revealed many of the province's colleges and schools are in a sorry state of repair. The Northern Ireland Audit Office Report said half of an estimated Pounds 114 million maintenance backlog could be linked to health and safety work.

It warned that the total calculated across the five area boards (local authorities) is probably a sizeable underestimate.

Paddy Murphy, director of the Belfast institute, said: "The money involved puts the required investment of Pounds 100 million into the University of Ulster's proposed campus at Springvale into perspective.

"It would make more sense to invest in existing buildings because if we are not investing in our young people, how can we expect others to invest in Northern Ireland?" The College Square building, which is surrounded by derelict property, is one of more than a dozen buildings owned by the institute, an amalgamation of three former further education colleges.

Some of them are so shoddy that Dr Murphy recently asked for an assurance from the Northern Ireland Office that President Bill Clinton would not visit the institute during this trip.

Officials on the area boards may now be summoned before the Northern Ireland Parliamentary Select Committee to respond to audit report criticisms.

It said that four of the boards did not have the information necessary to ensure effective strategies to combat the mounting of maintenance work. In the absence of reliable data the Department of Education could not be sure even the most essential maintenance was being carried out.

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