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'Name and blame' report under fire

Stinging criticism of a college's managers may soon be published, reports Ngaio Crequer

Governors at Gwent Tertiary College will decide later this month whether to publish a damning report into its management which "names names".

The report was written by Cyril Lewis, former principal of Swansea College, and accountants Ernst and Young, and is highly critical of the way the college has been managed.

It raises doubts about its whole ethos and suggests staff failed adequately to question what was happening. The college has so far refused to publish the report, despite pressure from local MPs.

It is so sensitive that not even all the governors have seen the report. It is believed to have been seen by only Stuart Smith, the chair of governors - who has recently resigned - and Professor John Andrews, chief executive of the Further Education Funding Council (Wales).

But Mr Lewis, who compiled the report, did give a verbal presentation to the governors.

The college is forecasting a deficit of Pounds 7 million in 1997-98. Its wage costs rose by Pounds 4.55 million in the last two years after a large rise in the number of its managers. It is undergoing a major restructuring exercise, aiming to reduce the number of managers from 118 to around 35 in an attempt to reduce the deficit.

Gwent college is in turmoil. It suspended principal Sue Parker after receiving the report and she subsequently resigned, citing personal reasons.

Then Mr Smith, the chairman of governors, resigned and said: "I believe this report should be made public. I have seen through major changes in the college's administration and it is now for the new corporate body to continue with that process."

There may also have been undertakings given to individuals that the report would remain confidential.

Mr Smith said that he had resigned because the report's authors had acted to prevent it being made public.

The college received a further blow at the beginning of the month with the resignation of Garth Jenkins, the vice-chairman of governors. John Hamilton, deputy principal, has been made acting principal, but has indicated he will only stay until the position is filled permanently.

Phil Thomas, a regional official of the lecturers' union NATFHE, said: "If, as a result of an investigation, it is found there were people to blame, then how can the truth be libellous? It is up to the corporation to decide whether to publish or not and we urge them to do so."

Mr Thomas added: "The report was commissioned by the corporation so it is up to them to decide whether it should be published or not, not up to the authors."

Richard Hirst, director of finance at the FEFC(Wales), said it would be inappropriate to publish.

People would have been less inclined to give their views if they had thought the report was going to be fully open, rather than given to a more restricted audience, said Mr Hirst.

He added that the council was working with the college, and monitoring the implementation of recommendations intended to restore financial security.

The emergency meeting of the college's governing body will be on August 19, the soonest one could be arranged.

Some of the people named in the report are still working at the college. Mr Hamilton, the acting principal, was unavailable for comment.

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