STAFF at a flagship Hartlepool college are facing job losses as a result of devastating Government budget cuts worth £1.6m.
Hartlepool College of Further Education, in the town’s Stockton Street, has launched a 30-day consultation period with affected staff which could see compulsory redundancies, voluntary redundancies and changes to terms and conditions.
Regional union bosses have raised major concerns as the college - which recently underwent a £53m rebuild - prepares to make £1.6m cuts from its budget with academic and non-teaching support staff affected.
College chiefs say post-16 funding for education has not been ring-fenced by the Government and say they are “not immune” from the comprehensive spending reviews since the 2008 banking crisis.
They admit job losses are likely, but hope the compulsory redundancy figure can be kept to less than 10, while a voluntary redundancy scheme has been launched but the final figure is not yet known. The college, which employs around 300 full-time staff members, entered into the 30-day period of consultation with staff and trade unions at the start of this month.
College principal Darren Hankey said: “These cuts have been imposed on us by the central Government and we are doing all we can to avoid compulsory redundancies.
“We have a good track record working with the trade unions, but that said we are going to have to take some costs out of the college.
“There is a voluntary redundancy scheme running at the moment and there has been some interest in that.”
Mr Hankey said the majority of the changes are likely to be to staff members terms and conditions. The budget cuts equate to less than 10 per cent of the college’s overall budget.
A college spokesperson added: “Unfortunately the college has not been immune from the effects of the comprehensive spending reviews and subsequent budgets since the 2008 banking crisis.
“In terms of education, funding for the primary and secondary sectors has largely been ring-fenced and therefore savings from the Department for Education have fallen on the early years and post-16 sector.
“Similarly the college has witnessed major changes in funding policy from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills – this has included limitations to individuals and employers for funded training and the extension of the loan system for some adults studying advanced qualifications.
“The college has now received its allocations for the next academic year and has now had the opportunity to plan a prudent budget.
“Regrettably the financial position requires the college to make savings to be ready for the next academic year.
“From Wednesday, June 4, the college has formally entered into a 30-day period of consultation with its employees and recognised trades unions.
“The main aim of the consultation is to make the necessary savings to ensure the college has a robust financial plan for the future, while maintaining a consistent focus on high quality delivery to our students and key stakeholders.”
Mike Hill, regional organiser for Unison, said the proposals come after an “excellent Ofsted report for which our members fought so hard to achieve”.
Mr Hill said: “I can confirm that Unison has entered into negotiations with the college over its plans to make cuts of up to £1.6m.
“Our representatives on the ground are clearly focused on fighting compulsory redundancies and defending terms and conditions among support staff and will leave no stone unturned to achieve that goal.”
Joyce McAndrew, regional support official for the University and College Union (UCU), said: “There is potentially a substantial number of people that may be affected, not necessarily people losing their jobs, but in terms of people’s jobs changing as well, changes to terms and conditions and it is a great concern to us.
“We are hoping that through consultation and negotiation what has been put to us may change over time.
“I would echo the concerns about the changes to funding and this is having an adverse impact on college’s in the region, and Hartlepool has been hit particularly badly.
“We are hoping that through looking at other areas the cuts won’t all be from staffing because that is the most important asset of the college.”