Blunkett to sack governors

January 29, 1999

Education secretary David Blunkett is expected to sack the entire board of governors at crisis-hit Wirral Metropolitan College. It will be only the second case where the special interventionist powers have been invoked.

The board of the Further Education Funding Council this week rejected the college's emergency financial recovery plan, and recommended mass sackings on the grounds of "mismanagement".

After a board discussion lasting more-than four hours the FEFC, said it had made the recommendation "to safeguard public funds" and to protect the interests of the local community and the students in the Wirral.

The FEFC pointed to its legal duty to ensure "adequate and sufficient" provision.

Wirral faces problems recovering from a previous debt of nearly Pounds 9 million, and criticism that management and governance is weak. Thousands of locals have protested against the proposed sale of a major campus building.

In a move expected to be interpreted as a symbolic show of strength by a government committed to tough action against failing colleges, Mr Blunkett is set to use powers under section 57 of the Further and Higher Education Act to dismiss the board. A secretary of state can only use the powers on the recommendation of the FEFC.

The board has indicated its willingness to "resign upon request", and will be allowed to do so. Section 57 was used only once before in 1995, to sack governors at Derby Wilmorton College.

Letters, page 15

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