Lecturers 'victimised'

February 4, 2000

Cricklade College lecturer Andrew Murray was sacked for blowing the whistle on the mismanagement of European grants, an employment tribunal heard this week. The tribunal took place as the full extent of the financial scandal at the college was revealed in a leaked confidential report.

The ongoing tribunal at Southampton heard allegations that lecturers Andrew Murray, Lesley Holmes and John Greenwood-Wilson were victimised for their trade union activity. Mr Murray, former branch secretary of the lecturers' union Natfhe, was victimised for drawing attention to financial irregularities at the college, Natfhe claimed.

The irregularities led to an inquiry by accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers. Their report has never been released, despite repeated calls by Natfhe, but it has now been leaked.

It focuses on courses run under a trading agreement with the IT company Extras Ltd. Funds came from the European Social Fund, but the college breached its requirements to match them.

The report says the college declared "an intention to provide funding to projects which it clearly had no intention of actually providing". It quotes a 1993 memo by director of enterprise Bob Bradshaw: "If we can run ESF courses on less than funding received, good for us."

Governors received "scant and biased" information and minutes and documents were incomplete.

In July 1999, the governors confirmed the inquiry had discovered that ESF regulations had been breached. Principal Richard Evans, who had been suspended on full pay for 18 months, was dismissed for "bringing the college into disrepute" and "prejudicing the interests of the corporation".

His departure was followed by the director of finance and director of enterprise, who took early retirement on enhanced terms.

Secretary of state for education David Blunkett demanded a public inquiry to examine the irregularities and the alleged victimisation, the results of which will be published next month.

The college declined to comment.

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