Review of NI institute sparked by £1.4m loss

January 10, 2003

A hit squad will tackle the financial crisis at Northern Ireland's North East Institute after the college failed to produce a recovery plan demanded last year, writes Phil Baty.

The Department for Employment and Learning has confirmed that because the college is facing a £1.4 million deficit for 2001-02, the DFEL has set up an "efficiency review" to protect provision.

Lecturers' union Natfhe said the college and its governors had failed to act on clear warnings.

The DFEL said that financial recovery plans were demanded from several Ulster colleges last year after routine monitoring discovered deficits. A spokesman said the financial health of colleges was crucial to the economic and social development of Northern Ireland, so it "is of great concern that the North East Institute will report a substantial deficit in its annual accounts for 2001-02".

Natfhe's regional official, Jim McKeown, said the union had met with North East's director Sheila Owen-Jones four times since June to discuss the situation. College governors had also received clear warnings, he said.

A review team, assisted by professional consultants, will be appointed in January.

The institute declined to comment.

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