Staff fear crises will worsen

May 21, 1999

Staff at the two worst failing colleges have criticised recovery plans, claiming the proposed action will unfairly penalise innocent staff and could exacerbate the crises, writes Phil Baty.

As the Further Education Funding Council's reorganisation committee last week ratified plans to close scandal-hit Bilston Community College, the staff at the college expressed "disgust" at the "total lack of consultation". At Wirral Metropolitan College, lecturers' union Natfhe has claimed that the unfair treatment of staff will hinder recovery.

Bilston College, in Wolverhampton, is to be closed after bad inspection results, huge debts, and a fraud squad investigation, and its assets are to be transferred to neighbouring Wulfrun College to create a single college for the Wolverhampton area. But before the launch of a month-long local consultation on the detailed plans this week, staff at Bilston lodged a vote of no confidence in the transitional governing body.

Staff terms and conditions are also at the heart of disputes at Wirral Metropolitan College, Merseyside, which faces debts of Pounds 12 million and dismal inspection results. In a letter to secretary of state David Blunkett, Paul Mackney, general secretary of Natfhe, said that decisions already made by new governors at Wirral "will be counter-productive to recovery". Mr Mackney was due to meet civil servants as The THES went to press, to call for a one-year "breathing space" - with no compulsory redundancies - to allow proper recovery measures at failing colleges.

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