A COLLEGE teaching thousands of students in Sussex is in “inadequate financial health” according to the Government.

The Government’s Education and Skills Funding Agency told East Sussex College it had made a “formal intervention” because of the college’s financial problems.

East Sussex College Group spent £5,301 more than it earned in the 2018/19 school year and owed £9.5 million in outstanding debt.

The college’s latest financial report said there were “local, regional, and national challenges” which would make the school year leading up to July “particularly challenging”.

“The college does not currently benefit from strong cash balances,” it read.

“The further education sector remains subject to a rapidly changing environment and it is vital these changes to funding and policy are understood.”

The group has campuses in Lewes, Eastbourne, Newhaven and Hastings, teaching thousands of teenage and adult students in Sussex.

This came despite the college cutting more than 100 staff members in the last school year.

Despite its “inadequate” financial rating, the wage gap between principal Clive Cooke and the average staff salary increased year-on-year.

In the 2018/19 school year, Mr Cooke’s basic salary was 9.36 times as much as that of the median member of staff.

In the previous year that figure was 7.92.

A letter to the college group stated the Government would take further action if it did not improve its finances over the next two years.

In its latest financial report, East Sussex College said it would ensure each campus “lives within its means”.

“There are also clear guidelines in relation to the operation of campuses,” it read.

“This will ensure each campus lives within its means with principals having more autonomy on decisions related to staffing and resourcing.

“Ultimately this new model will drive the cash generation outcomes of the group.”

A college spokeswoman said it was taking action.

“East Sussex College Group has already implemented additional financial controls and introduced a new business planning process for this year to ensure we improve our financial health in line with the Education and Skills Funding Agency requirements for 2019/20 and 2020/21,” she said.