Hain says no to MP call for sackings

March 27, 1998

Welsh education minister Peter Hain has rejected calls by Labour MPs to sack governors at scandal-hit Gwent Tertiary College.

Mr Hain received the request from a trio of Gwent MPs: Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent), Don Touhig (Islwyn) and Paul Flynn (Newport West).

The college ran into serious financial difficulties after introducing a top-heavy matrix management system. There have also been allegations of misuse of European Union funds.

Four sets of auditors have conducted probes. Investigators from the Department for Education and Employment and the Further Education Funding Council for Wales looked into the use of European Social Funds. Internal auditors, Ernst and Young, ran their own inquiry into Euro-money and the National Audit Office included it in a scheduled survey of Welsh colleges. Each report is still awaited.

Mr Smith said that too many governors associated with the problems were still in place, including the chair, Chris Hughes, a local businessman. "He was the chair of the college's audit committee during the period when the problems occurred - and 11 of the 16 governors were also on the governing body. They have no support locally, there is no confidence in them and they should go," he said. Mr Smith has tabled written questions in the Commons on EU funding awarded to the college.

Mr Hain rejected calls to remove governors, saying that they had restored college finances.

Mr Hughes said: "We have successfully turned a project loss of Pounds 6.7 million into an anticipated surplus of Pounds 500,000. It would be inappropriate for members of the corporation to resign at such a critical time when the college is recovering from its past troubles."

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