A leading college is facing a “financial crisis” as it looks to make £1.5 million worth of staff cuts.
Unions passed a vote of no confidence in City College Brighton and Hove’s senior management team after claiming 90% of the cuts will fall on teaching and support staff.
A total of £450,000 has been put aside for redundancy payments – with 25% of employees at risk, according to unions.
But senior staff told The Argus yesterday that the union estimate was too high and official numbers would not be announced until after plans had been put out to consultation later this month.
Vice principal Rebecca Conroy said the college’s ambitious building plans, which include a £79 million redevelopment of their Pelham Street campus, had not been the cause of its current financial difficulties and that the project would still go ahead.
Plans for a series of ten-storeyhigh buildings with teaching rooms, 442 student homes and up to 125 properties for 10,000 students a year were approved by the Brighton and Hove City Council in December.
In a letter to staff and union members, Julie Nerney, chair of the board of governors, said senior management would not change its plans despite its financial position being scrutinised by its bank and the Skills Funding Agency.
Accountants KPMG are also reported to have visited the college to analyse their financial position.
In the letter, she said: “The board of governors is not prepared to put on hold the restructuring programme or the proposals for the new build.”
UNISON Branch Secretary Alex Knutsen yesterday said many staff were angry and felt they had been left in the dark for the past year over the state of the college’s finances.
He said: “If they’d have said to us this is the problem we’re in 12 months ago we could have worked with them but we’re still not sure we’re getting the whole story.
“They’ve been telling staff and us that there isn’t a problem. Two days later they say we’ve been deemed inadequate and referred to the funding agency and KPMG have been in – and that puts things on a whole different level.”
He added members had given their unanimous backing to hold a ballot for strike action if the situation remained unchanged with announcements on redundancies.
It is feared up to 100 members of staff could lose their jobs after Easter.
Mr Knutsen added: “A year has been frittered away when we could all have been working together to avoid this crisis, which now will almost inevitably lead to confrontation.
“They are a disgrace, and should stand aside so that competent managers can take their place.”
Alison Kelly, from the lecturers Union UCU, said the college should rethink its expansion plans adding that senior management had spent too long concentrating on a vanity project rather than quality of teaching.
She said: “We can’t see how it won’t impact on the actual provision, as far as we can see it’s going to cut courses and have larger class sizes.
“It’s all a matter of the number of courses and the quality of the courses and people are really worried about redundancies. But they’re just as worried about what’s happening to the college; they are against the new build which they see as a vanity project.”
Mrs Conroy said the college had tried to be as transparent as possible about their financial situation to staff and that work was now under way to put a “recovery plan in place”.
She said: “We are certainly not unique, the further education sector has had significant cuts in funding.
“But we have quite a high ratio of staff to pupils and so we are probably out of kilter to begin with compared to other colleges.”
A statement from the college said: “The current situation will mean a difficult period until the end of this academic year for the college but it is a situation that is manageable and we are confident that the necessary level of savings can be achieved to ensure that the college returns to a position of financial health.”