Hartlepool FE College vows to save jobs after £600,000 cuts bombshell

Flags flying outside of the Hartlepool College of Further Education. Picture by FRANK REID
Flags flying outside of the Hartlepool College of Further Education. Picture by FRANK REID

DEFIANT college bosses today vowed to try to avoid compulsory redundancies after a £600,000 funding blow.

Staff at Hartlepool College of Further Education were today reassured that no-one will be forced out of the door despite shock news that £600,000 was being taken out of college coffers in this academic year.

Hartlepool College of Further Education

Hartlepool College of Further Education

College chiefs say the Skills Funding Agency is clawing back the money.

But vice principal Darren Hankey told the Mail: “We want to avoid redundancies and we have got a good track record for doing that. We are confident we can do that again this time.”

The college was relaunched in August 2011 after a £53m rebuild funded by the Learning Skills Council.

The Stockton Road-based site employs 320 people full-time and 100 on a fixed-term basis. It gets funding from two agencies.

The Education Funding Agency is responsible for funding for 16-18-year-olds and works directly with the Department of Education.

The funding for adult learners, anyone aged 19 and over, comes from the Skills Funding Agency.

Normally funding allocations for the next academic year are announced in April with no subsequent changes to the total, said Mr Hankey.

But he said there had been an unprecedented move with the Skills Funding Agency taking money back from colleges mid-year.

He said Hartlepool College of Further Education was told 10 days ago that it would be losing £600,000, and added: “Some colleges might be in a position to take that hit but we have not got too many reserves because of the new build.

“We are working with the staff – who have been very positive – at ways of avoiding redundancies. Measures have been put to staff to avoid redundancies.”

He said suggested measures had included two weeks of unpaid holiday and talks were ongoing with both union and non-union members on that.

He said a voluntary severance scheme may also be looked at.

But he stressed: “We shall be pulling out all the stops to avoid redundancies.

“We are the only college in the North-East that has avoided taking redundancies since the start of the banking crisis.”

He said everyone who wanted to stay in employment would do so.

“The £600,000 has been a big blow to the college and I imagine it would be to other colleges as well.

“This has never happened mid-year before.”

Mr Hankey stressed that no services would be affected in the current financial year but that projects which were being considered for the future may not now go ahead.

“For the students we have got, there will be no change in services whatsoever,” said Mr Hankey.

“We shall continue to provide excellent standards of education.”

But he said there may be some impact to future services. The college provides services in communities as well as within the college, such as training up people to become ready for the world of work.

Mr Hankey added: “This might have an impact on other projects that could be set up.”

Dan Taubman is the senior national education official with the University and College Union, the largest trade union and professional association for academic-related staff working in further and higher education throughout the UK.

He said: “Although we are not aware of the particular circumstances of this college, we would always deplore and regret any sudden cut in funding.”