STOUBRIDGE MP Margot James has slammed Birmingham Metropolitan College (BMet) for their handling of Stourbridge College's finances.

Ms James was speaking at the Hagley Road Campus ahead of a meeting with staff on May 17 to hear their concerns about the closure of the campus, which was announced earlier this month.

As protestors against the closure made their voices heard outside, the under fire MP hit out at BMet but defended her decision to support their take over of the college back in 2013.

Ms James said: "Financially I think they have been reckless as a board in sanctioning the number of acquisitions and the level of borrowing that they have accumulated.

Read how The Stourbridge News broke the news Stourbridge College was to close

"How a college can get into debts of around £20million is abysmal and appalling.

"The governing body have a legal duty to bring that debt down to sustainable levels."

However she rejected claims from people opposed to the closure, including former Labour Dudley Council leader, Cllr Pete Lowe, that BMet had asset stripped Stourbridge.

Ms James added: "They have invested in this college and they were hoping to set against that the proceeds of the sale of the Longlands site.

"That has been bedevilled by delay and that, I don't think I can blame BMet for - I think that is all around the bureaucracy of our planning system."

In answer to complaints about her support for BMet's take over of the college, Ms James said she thinks some of the criticism is politically motivated.

She said: "I did support the BMet bid, I have apologised for that. I regret that judgement but I did make it on the basis that BMet were prepared to invest in our college and they did.

"What I didn't expect them to do was completely mess up their finances, no-one at the time could have foreseen that."

She also highlighted declining numbers of 16-18 students while provision for education continued to increase as a problem for education in Dudley.

Ms James added: "There are too many places chasing too few students."

She also had a message for students protesting outside to save the college.

The Conservative MP said: "I understand completely how strongly you feel about it, you feel very let down towards the end of the academic year.

"Being told so late that you have got to go somewhere else in September, it is appalling.

"If we can get over that you either get a place at an outstanding college in Dudley or a good college in Halesowen to do the course you are in the middle of and, when you come out of that, you get a qualification from a college that is rated more highly than Stourbridge."

Campaign launched to save Stourbridge College

Cllr Lowe however dismissed Ms James's regret for initially supporting BMet.

He said: "The least we can expect is that for our MP to look after the interests of the people of Stourbridge, I don't believe regret is enough.

"A number of councillors who had represented our community for years told her in 2012 - she was warned BMet would come in, acquire land and seek to sell it off."

A 17-year-old childcare student at the protest, who did not wish to be named, spoke of her sadness that her college is due to close and how she now feels ‘uncertain’ about her future after being told she will be moved to Halesowen College.

She said: “I love the college, the staff are really nice. It was a massive shock when we found it was closing.

“I have put my future in this. I feel the future is uncertain now.”

She said news of the college’s closure has galvanised students and they are united in fighting the closure.

She added: “I love that we have had this protest.”

A public meeting about the closure is planned to take place at Stourbridge Town Hall next week.