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Business as usual at Norwich city college

PUBLISHED: 12:00 25 May 2010 | UPDATED: 16:47 01 July 2010

Principal Dick Palmer at City College Norwich

Principal Dick Palmer at City College Norwich

Steve Downes

Norwich City College principal Dick Palmer promised that it would be "business as usual" for students as he unveiled a host of cuts to save £2.8m over the next three years.

Norwich City College principal Dick Palmer promised that it would be “business as usual” for students as he unveiled a host of cuts to save £2.8m over the next three years.

But Mr Palmer warned of deeper cuts to come as he announced the plans to axe more than 100 members of staff.

The 14,800-pupil Norwich City College is facing an estimated shortfall of £6.55m over the next three years as the public sector funding squeeze tightens.

The college will lose 20 teachers, more than 30 managers and a host of administrative staff, while the current nine schools of education will be reduced to six.

Despite the gloomy picture, Mr Palmer promised that no courses would be cut - and said quality would be maintained at the region's largest college.

He said: “Our fundamental principle was to protect services and students. Other colleges are closing courses, but we are not.

“We can and will maintain the quality of the courses. People's children's places on courses at the college are secure. It is business as usual. And we will continue to strive to be an outstanding college, in the top 10 in England.”

He admitted the cuts could be just the beginning, with Mr Palmer expecting further government announcements in the next nine months which could mean a need for savings topping the current £2.8m.

He said: “Given our best estimates of the future, we may have to save a further £3.75m over three years. Our annual budget is around £45m. It is an extremely difficult time.”

Mr Palmer said the college “would not shirk its responsibility to make do with less” - and promised that no courses would be cut and course quality would not be affected.

The funding cuts come a few months after the college was forced to cancel its £173m campus redevelopment because quango the Learning and Skills Council and the government could not meet their funding pledges.

They signal an end to the years of plenty under the previous government, with the new coalition of the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats seeking to reduce the nation's debts.

Mr Palmer said the college's managers had seen the cuts coming and had been planning to make savings for six months.

He said: “In March I stated publicly the college's commitment to ensuring that our courses would not be cut and I am pleased that we have been able to honour that pledge.

“The college faces some very testing times in the years ahead, but we owe it to our current and future students to ensure we maintain a financially healthy organisation that will continue providing the workforce of tomorrow with the skills they need.”

Among the proposed savings are a reduction in senior managers from seven to 4.4, and a change in role and reduction in the numbers of programme managers.

The current number of staff is 1,059. If all of the job losses go ahead, that will be reduced by 9.4pc to 959.

Mr Palmer said: “It's really tough. But we have to do this to ensure the college's continued sustainability and financial viability.”

He said the government's failure to meet its pledges about rebuild cash meant the college had to find £1.4m a years for five years to keep the existing campus in good shape.

And he added: “The college has gone through a number of modernisation programmes in the last four years. We are a good, progressive and innovative college with our best ever success rates.

“Without continued investment all that is threatened. We would call on the coalition government to consider the importance of colleges, which can help to get the country out of recession.”

t Do you have an education funding story? Call Steve Downes on 01603 772495 or email steve.downes@archant.co.uk.

t February 2005 - Norfolk-based actor and comedian Stephen Fry backs Norwich City College's bid to convince the government to eliminate a 10pc funding gap between further education colleges and school sixth forms

t June 2005 - the college is forced to cut £630,000 from its adult education courses after government support is slashed

t May 2006 - the college announces the closure of its adult education outreach centres at The Forum, Diss, Dereham, Bowthorpe and the Vauxhall Centre in Norwich, in a move prompted by the government's insistence on greater focus on 14-19-year-olds

t September 2007 - City College is the lead partner as the National Skills Academy in Financial Services is launched in the city

t 2007 - a £1.3m sixth form centre is opened at the college

t January 2008 - plans are revealed for a £173m, two-phase rebuild of the Ipswich Road campus

t September 2008 - despite strong local opposition, the new college plans are approved

t October 2008 - the first architects' drawings of the redevelopment are published

t November 2008 - Earlham High is announced as a planned academy, with City College as lead sponsor

t December 2008 - the college announces a ground-breaking agreement with Norfolk Police that will see it training officers in a bid to drive up standards

t January 2009 - doubts begin to surface about the college's £173m revamp as the Learning and Skills Council puts a host of projects on hold

t March 2009 - amid increasing uncertainty, the college produces a 3D model of what the new campus would look like

t June 2009 - dreams are dashed as the LSC announces a scaled-down list of projects, not to include City College's rebuild

t February 2010 - the college unveils a five-year strategy that it hopes will put it among the top 10 colleges in England

t May 2010 - a host of cuts are unveiled, including 100 job losses, to fill a funding black hole that could top £6.5m over three years.

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