THE Scottish Office has been forced to send in auditors to a further education college for the second time. The announcement on Wednesday that independent financial consultants are to draw up a "corporate recovery" plan for Reid Kerr College in Paisley is in line with the similar deal for Clydebank College put together by Deloitte and Touche, also likely to be sent into Reid Kerr.
Matt Aird, Reid Kerr's principal, welcomed the "offer" of independent financial expertise. "With the co-operation of all the parties involved, the long-term future of Reid Kerr College will be secured," Mr Aird said.
He has been battling to turn round the college's fortunes but has encountered vigorous union opposition to proposed redundancies and changes in working practices. Lecturers have not had a pay rise for two years although a package has been accepted by the non-academic staff.
The management originally signalled a need for a "potential maximum" of 46 redundancies among the 470 academic and support staff. This was to reduce the college's accumulated deficit of Pounds 878,000 which was made worse by a cut in this year's Scottish Office grant of Pounds 492,000.
The college has now scaled down its job cuts although it is still looking for volunteers by November 23 so just over seven full-time academic posts can be shed. Seven lecturing posts have been redeployed and another eight jobs have gone from the support staff through voluntary redundancies.
The Scottish Office said Reid Kerr was operating at "significantly above average cost and below the average efficiency level of the sector as a whole".
The Clydebank rescue package will be a gloomy precedent since it involved between 30 and 40 redundancies. This was endorsed by the leadership of the Educational Institute of Scotland which led to bitter recriminations.