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It's your Government's fault - College principal hits back at Tory MP Brandon Lewis over restaurant closure criticism

PUBLISHED: 16:13 13 June 2019 | UPDATED: 16:30 13 June 2019

Stuart Rimmer from East Coast College, Lowestoft

Stuart Rimmer from East Coast College, Lowestoft

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A college principal has hit back at a top Conservative MP after he expressed "deep disappointment" over the controversial closure of a training restaurant.

Brandon Lewis says the closure of Ambitions is Brandon Lewis says the closure of Ambitions is "deeply disappointing" Photo: PA / David Mirzoeff

Stuart Rimmer, principal at East Coast College said "catastrophic" government funding cuts were to blame for the closure of Ambitions, and that Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis - who chairs the Conservative Party - "should not be surprised" savings had to be made in the current economic climate.

He wrote: "The key issue worth some reflection is why the college must take this decision and what the conditions are which have forced the closure of this facility.

"The issues are certainly not one of quality, as your constituents and local business confirm.

"It is one of affordability.

"As a well-informed and influential senior politician you will understand the often draconian and at times catastrophic funding and policy constraints that have placed on colleges, and the significant under-investment in college infrastructure by this government.

"Since 2009 following a policy from an administration in which you are a very senior figure, college funding has been cut by around 30pc."

He goes on to say politicians "should not be surprised" when these conditions lead to closures, adding: "Colleges matter...But for too long the vital work they do has been overlooked and underfunded.

"We would now encourage you as a parliamentarian to urgently intervene, not by challenging directly a college on your constituents' behalf concerning a restaurant closure...but at the highest levels of your office to support, influence and secure an immediate funding rise.

"Sadly for the college Ambitions will now have to close but without this urgent investment other provision in all the colleges in our fine region are placed at grave risk."

Mr Rimmer also revealed Ambitions needed a £100,000 investment to keep it open, and that students from the Yarmouth campus would travel to East, the equivalent restaurant at Lowestoft, for free for their work experience.

His response came after Mr Lewis made public a letter he had sent to the college calling on it to "justify" its decision to close Ambitions.

He said it had been a significant concern within the community and that he had been contacted by constituents on the matter.

The restaurant has been hailed as an asset in a busy seaside resort where catering is a key career path for many.

Hundreds have signed a petition calling for it to stay open.

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