Unofficial spending adds to Luton woe

July 13, 2001

Luton University has launched an investigation into unauthorised and excessive spending in its school of healthcare and social studies.

Minutes of a meeting of Luton's directorate show that the school is facing unspecified financial difficulties. Luton has imposed tough financial controls across the board and ordered a review of practices.

The minutes, dated May 2001, say that orders must be double-signed. They say that the head of internal audit is undertaking an investigation of over-expenditure and two directorate members are examining the budget.

A professional accountant is to be appointed to work in the faculty in the next financial year.

Luton would not discuss the extent of the problems. "All figures will be available at year-end (July 31)," a spokeswoman said.

Staff are concerned about Luton's cost-cutting programme, in which traditional humanities subjects are being cut, with about 50 job losses expected.

There are no plans for significant cuts in the school of healthcare. The university said that course cuts were a result of falling demand.

Luton missed its student number quota last year by more than 20 per cent, according to a Higher Education Funding Council for England report.

This year, it missed its recruitment targets by 10 per cent, but an expected multimillion-pound funding clawback by Hefce was reduced to £75,000, subject to an emergency recovery plan.

The directorate minutes suggest that the planned cuts will not be enough:

"Despite confirmation that the current year holdback will not be applied in full and success in restraining expenditure, there still appears to be significant risk against achieving the revised target surplus for the year. For the remainder of the year, any unofficial ordering will be considered a serious disciplinary offence."

"Luton aims to break even in what has been a difficult year," the spokeswoman said. "The faculty of healthcare and social studies' specific problem is that it is spread over many sites. It therefore runs the highest risk of unofficial ordering."

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