Cash crisis prompts fears of FE staff cuts

June 27, 2003

A wave of redundancies is looming in English further education colleges as they face a funding crisis to rival that in schools, lecturers' union leaders and politicians have warned.

Strike action against redundancies has been called at colleges in the East Midlands, while dozens of redundancies are proposed at institutions in the Southwest, says lecturers' union Natfhe.

Meanwhile, only 41 per cent of colleges have so far managed to pay lecturers this year's wage settlement, a Natfhe survey has found. Union leaders and employers are expected to discuss the crisis when the next round of further education pay talks begins next week.

Barry Lovejoy, head of Natfhe's colleges department, said: "Clearly, this is causing us concern. The employers have been highlighting for some time that money is tight this year because of higher national insurance payments and other pressures.

"Part of it is down to the government overegging the amount of money coming into the sector. Certainly, some colleges are struggling financially."

Phil Willis, Liberal Democrat education spokesman, said colleges were finding it as hard as schools to balance their budgets. Speaking at the Association of Colleges summer conference, he said: "While the media spotlight is firmly fixed on the schools funding crisis, I wonder how many colleges are preparing their redundancy lists?

"Although some colleges will qualify for the enhanced premiums for widening participation, the funding package does little to help equip colleges for the huge and demanding challenges ahead.

"Unless we reform the current funding regime, colleges will simply not be able to deliver on the post-14 education and skills agenda."

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