WILTSHIRE Council has been accused of keeping staff and the Devizes community in the dark over Wiltshire College’s decision to back out of its plan to take over the services of Braeside education centre.

This week finance boss Philip Whitehead admitted he had heard a rumour before Christmas that the college was to change its mind about running the Braeside outdoor learning courses at Lackham and this was confirmed at a meeting in January.

But he decided not to go public on the decision until last week.

He said: “I did not want to go to staff at Braeside about this until we had a chance to speak to the other bidders who had originally come forward. It was not until last week that we had anything definite to tell them.”

He said he was now confident that a new bidder would be appointed and this was good news for Devizes as the Braeside site was likely to stay open. He said three other organisations had been in the running but negotiations were down to two and both of these wanted to use Braeside.

Cllr Whitehead said: “When I heard Wiltshire College was pulling out I was shocked and disappointed.

“But I am confident we can now work with one of these two other bidders. We have secured funding for this year so are in no rush.”

The Adventure Learning Foundation has pulled out of its bid but those from Classes Abroad and the Magdalen Environmental Trust in partnership with Wiltshire Wildlife Trust remain.

Braeside’s chairman of managers Dave Borrie said: “Wiltshire Council has not been very transparent. Schools are still very keen on using Braeside but some schools have had to pull out because of the uncertainty.

“The staff seem very concerned for their jobs. Many say they have considered leaving.”

Wiltshire College principal Amanda Burnside said: “It was not a strategic fit for us.”

A year ago more than 16,000 people signed a petition to keep both Braeside and Oxenwood, near Marlborough open.