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College staff warn of impact of cuts

PUBLISHED: 07:30 22 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:27 01 July 2010

Staff and students have united to oppose cuts in education. Supporters outside City College in Norwich

Staff and students have united to oppose cuts in education. Supporters outside City College in Norwich

Kim Briscoe

Staff at East Anglia's biggest college have showed the strength of their feelingsover funding cuts by holding a demonstration.

The demonstration outside City College Norwich's Ipswich Road base was part of a series of protests nationwide, organised by teaching trade unions to put pressure on the government to think again about proposals to drastically reduce public spending further.

Staff at East Anglia's biggest college have showed the strength of their feelings over funding cuts by holding a demonstration.

The demonstration outside City College Norwich's Ipswich Road base was part of a series of protests nationwide, organised by teaching trade unions to put pressure on the government to think again about proposals to drastically reduce public spending further.

Mark Hughes, the University and College Union (UCU) branch secretary at City College, said trade unionists feared a cut in public spending would push the country into a recession and lead to high unemployment.

He said: “These savings will be taken out of the local economy and it is people's jobs. “Unemployment will rise and more people will have to default on their mortgage payments.

“We are frightened for people and it's very worrying.”

He said at a time when the UK was trying to become a 'hi-tech' economy, it was more important that ever to invest in training and education and to use it to kickstart a financial recovery.

University funding is being slashed by £1.2 billion over the next three years, with four in five institutions facing cuts. In further education up to 7,000 jobs are at risk as a result of public funding cuts of £200m for adult learning, and the unions are warning that funding cuts in both sectors cannot be made without having a serious impact on the quality of students' education. Father-of-two Mick Procner, programme manager for construction crafts, is one of the staff who faces redundancy.

The 57-year-old who lives near Diss said he felt strongly that the government needed to be investing in education and training, not taking money away.

He said: “It has increased my stress levels, without a doubt.

“With my workload I've not got a lot of time to look elsewhere. I'm still having to plan and set the timetables for next year, and carry out staff appraisals and I don't know if I will even be here next year.”

College principal Dick Palmer said: “We absolutely share these feelings with the staff who have demonstrated and implore the government to understand the role of colleges in making economic development feasible in times of recession and supporting what we do to help young people and help with social chesion.

“At the same time we understand the public purse has got to be constrained and we have to take our share of the pain.”

He added: “I just hope that once we get through these hard times that whoever is in power will see fit to make real investment in college buildings.”

In May City College principal Dick Palmer warned there could be deeper cuts to come as he announced plans to axe more than 100 members of staff as part of a package to save £2.8m.

The 14,800-pupil college, which has an annual budget of around £45m, 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.

Earlier this year the college was forced to cancel its £173m campus redevelopment because the quango the Learning and Skills Council and the government could not meet their funding pledges.

Yesterday the government revealed the details of a plan for Further Education colleges to bid for a share of £50 million for building projects.

Colleges could get up to £1m, but would need to find about another £2m themselves towards building projects of about £3m in total and Mr Palmer said he would certainly be bidding for a slice of the cash.

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