Beggs queries college ‘clawback’

MLA Roy Beggs Jnr has questioned his fellow East Antrim representative, Finance Minister Sammy Wilson, on “clawback clauses” regarding the demolition of St Comgall’s College.

During Question Time at the Assembly, Mr Beggs (Ulster Unionist) asked the DUP minister whether the Stormont Government could recoup capital grants allocated to the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools’ campus on behalf of the taxpayer.

Mr Wilson replied: “The member raises a very important point. Where the recuperation of assets is concerned, when schools are in different ownership, the money will often go back to the owners. However, where there has been public sector capital investment, depending on the amount and how long ago it took place, there are clawback arrangements.”

Speaking later, Mr Beggs said he was placing further questions to Education Minister John O’Dowd (Sinn Fein). The UUP man added: “I believe there was no real incentive for the Catholic schools authority (CCMS) or the trustees of the school to seriously consider alternative uses for the school buildings. That included the gymnasium, despite the fact that I know that a local sporting club had expressed an interest in taking over the running of that building as an indoor sports training facility.

“I have placed a written question to the Minister for Education asking him specifically what steps his Department is taking to reclaim funding allocated to building and maintaining St Comgall’s College over the years. It will be most interesting to see whether – in light of Minister Wilson’s ‘clawback clause’– the taxpayer receives a penny in compensation for their long-term investment in that school when the site is eventually disposed of.”