Labour Research, the venerable trade union-based research body, had a simple aim - to publish gory details from 1995-96 college accounts. These were released to provincial media organisations, which, predictably, seized on principals' salaries and deficits of local colleges. The reaction was swift and severe. Labour Research received about 100 calls from "outraged" principals and the Further Education Funding Council, whose phones were also hot, was forced to issue a "health warning" on the report, claiming that one principal said to earn Pounds 74,000 in fact got only Pounds 41,000. Despite the backlash Labour Research sticks by its report.
"We even re-examined the figures," said a spokesman. "We did not intend this as negative publicity but it just shows you how touchy colleges and principals are about their accounts." Antithesis put one figure to the test. The People's College, in Nottingham, was said to have a Pounds 2.121 million deficit for 1995-96. An irate college spokesman said this was "misleading" and "unhelpful". He then agreed the college had spent Pounds 2 million more than its FEFC income for the year but there was no deficit because it used reserves to cover the overspend. Judge for yourself.