North East 'hammered' as it bears over half of FE job cuts

29th April 2011 at 01:00
More than 800 posts to be axed at the region's colleges

The North East is being "hammered" by FE funding cuts, according to unions and principals, with more than half of the proposed redundancies in the sector coming from the region's colleges.

Of around 1,500 jobs known to be at risk in 44 colleges across England, more than 800 are based at just seven FE institutions in the North East.

At Bishop Auckland College, more than 204 jobs - a quarter of its workforce - are at risk, and up to 200 more are under threat at nearby South Tyneside College.

Newcastle College has already announced plans to axe 171 positions, and further job cuts are on the way at City of Sunderland, East Durham, Stockton Riverside and Tyne Metropolitan colleges.

University and College Union (UCU) regional official Iain Owens said the North East, which includes some of the most deprived parts of the country, was being disproportionately affected due to its high reliance on the public sector for employment. The national FE budget is being slashed by 25 per cent over the next four years.

"We are getting absolutely hammered at the moment," Mr Owens said. "With its reliance on public sector jobs, which are being cut, the North East is being disproportionately affected.

"Sunderland and East Durham are among the most deprived areas of the country, and they are being worst hit," he added.

Dave Prentis, Unison's general secretary, said: "The cuts are punishing the communities that are being hit the hardest and we know there will be worse to come."

UCU members at South Tyneside College are to be balloted on plans for strike action. A fifth of its teachers could also be demoted and have their pay cut by a third, with some losing out on up to pound;11,000 a year.

Principal Lindsey Whiterod said the college had to make savings of pound;3 million to balance the books, so would be looking to shed the equivalent of 62.5 full-time posts.

"We understand that this is an upsetting time for our staff; these decisions were not taken lightly. We are committed to working at every stage with staff and unions to explore every opportunity to avoid compulsory redundancies . South Tyneside College is not alone - other colleges across the region have also been forced into making similar decisions," she said.

The proposed job cuts at Bishop Auckland College amount to the equivalent of 95 full-time roles, and UCU regional support official Joyce McAndrew described the announcement as "another huge blow for education in the North-East".

A college spokesman blamed the proposed job losses on the college losing out on pound;2.9 million in its funding allocation for 201112, and said it was looking at offering reduced working hours and improved redundancy packages, as well as redeploying staff.

Principal Anne Isherwood said: "We are faced with losing a sizeable proportion of our annual budget and we have looked long and hard at how to reduce our spending commitments. Reducing our staffing levels is a last resort, but regrettably it is one we cannot avoid."

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said it was "critical" for the Government to focus investment "where its impact is maximised", due to the current fiscal climate.

"Alongside simplifying the funding system, we have introduced greater freedoms and flexibilities for FE colleges and training organisations.

"This will put them in a better position to respond to the needs of learners, employers and communities to whom they will be increasingly accountable.

"Ultimately FE colleges are self-governing, independent organisations and, as such, they are responsible for their own terms and conditions, pay and workforce modelling," the spokesman added.

IN NUMBERS - REGIONAL JOB LOSSES PROPOSED

Bishop Auckland College

204 job cuts - equivalent of 95 full-time staff, including 78 teachers and 11 academic managers

South Tyneside College

Up to 200 job cuts - equivalent of 62.5 full-time staff, including 46 teachers and one academic manager

Newcastle College

171 job cuts - 120 teachers

East Durham College

76 job cuts - 20 teachers

City of Sunderland College

69 job cuts - 64 teachers and five academic managers

Tyne Metropolitan College

66 job cuts - including 24 teachers and six academic managers

Stockton Riverside College

Equivalent of 23 full-time job cuts, including six teachers

(Source: UCU).

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