College in disarray

March 5, 1999

'Inspectors gave the college the worst possible inspection grades in one of the sector's worst-ever reports'.

College inspectors have attacked a "failure to account for public funds" at Matthew Boulton College, six months after Whistleblowers revealed how governors at the college broke the rules to secure a handsome pay-off for former principal Tony Colton.

Mr Colton, who left the college with a Pounds 1.1 million deficit, has since had his golden goodbye rescinded, but a damning inspection report published this week highlights a collapse of governance and management at the Birmingham college of further and higher education.

Inspectors from the Further Education Funding Council gave the college the worst possible inspection grades for both management and governance - "poor provision which has few strengths and many weaknesses". In one of the sector's worst-ever reports, poor grades were also given for the college's quality assurance, general resources and student support.

The report reveals that the college had failed to release audited financial statements and had forecast surpluses, despite a deficit of Pounds 1.1 million in 1996-97 and Pounds 460,000 in 1997-98.

Governors, who breached instruments and articles of governance to secure a pay rise and pension enhancement for Mr Colton, were criticised for the "ineffective conduct of corporation and committee business".

Current principal Christine Braddock this week blamed the previous regime. "The previous management left the college in disarray and in a state of disrepute," she said in a statement. She said the departure of principal Tony Colton, as well as the departure of the deputy principal and clerk to governors, meant that the "dark days" were over.

However, as Whistleblowers revealed in September, Ms Braddock herself is facing a private FEFC investigation for breaching instruments and articles of governance.

The future of the college remains in serious doubt. Ms Braddock's recovery plans, which include a reduction in the staff budget of Pounds 1.7 million, have not yet been approved by the FEFC. And the inspectors said it was "too soon to assess the effectiveness" of her management changes.

Options for the college are understood to include its closure or the removal of governors.

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