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Shortfall will slash jobs and courses

Meagre funding means redundancies and huge cuts in adult learning, say principals. James Sturcke reports

Widespread redundancies are expected across the UK as colleges get to grips with lower-than-expected funding allocations for next year, research has revealed.

Three-quarters of colleges in an FE Focus survey will receive less money from the Learning and Skills Council than they expected.

FE Focus contacted more than 400 colleges in England as principals received news of next year's funding. Of the 91 replies, 30 per cent said they would get less than last year, and 77 per cent said they would get less than expected under the "plan-led" funding arrangement with the LSC.

Fifty-one per cent said they will cut jobs, with up to 60 staff expected to go in some colleges.

Thousands of courses are also likely to be scrapped as colleges divert funds to meet targets on provision for 16 to 19-year-olds. With Adult Learners' Week starting tomorrow, principals estimate that cuts will lead to the loss of up to 200,000 adult places.

Some say the LSC has been disingenuous. One principal said: "No one said we would have to make cuts. But we will have to - and they will be in priority areas of adult learning provision."

David Collins, principal of South Cheshire college, said: "We are getting 2.2 per cent less than we were meant to. We will cut our adult programme by around 1,000 places. We won't use so many supply staff and we will not be renewing some fixed-term contracts.

"I would have liked to see more honesty from the LSC and the Government in saying that they cannot afford to do what they promised."

Many feel the promise of three-year funding plans, aimed at creating stability, have been ruined.

Mr Collins added: "Promises have not been kept. There is no three-year funding, no three-year allocation, no three-year planning. It is a bluff."

Julian Gravatt, director of funding and development at the Association of Colleges, said: "The gap between the LSC budget and the targets being put on colleges is too great. Colleges were given the impression in January that there would be no need for cuts this year and that has been proved wrong."

A principal of a college in the North said the local LSC had "given no indication of how it arrived at its funding allowance".

Geoff Sorrell, deputy principal at Lewisham college, south London, said:

"We are very angry. We have been given pound;2 million less than we asked for. There is a cut of pound;750,000 to our other adult provision, and that includes students with learning difficulties.

"As a beacon college with very high success rates, we have an extremely high standard of provision. We would have hoped that poor provision elsewhere would have been cut first."

Another college principal said: "I'd like to see the abolition of the LSC.

It has failed totally."

Rob Wye, LSC strategy director, said: "Colleges have had a significant increase in recent years and it is falling off this year. Some are getting less because we are re-basing the system and paying them according to what they delivered rather than on historical amounts; 16-18 provision is costing more than we had originally budgeted for. That means inevitable pressure on provision. We must fit allocations to the budget we have."

The LSC aims to return to three-year funding allocations by next year, he added.

Additional research by Patrick Hayes

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