UCU: ESFA loan conditions lead to unfair job losses

A formula that will result in colleges having to lay off staff to secure rescue funding is 'frankly offensive', says UCU

Kate Parker

UCU: ESFA loan conditions lead to unfair job losses

A college in England has threatened job cuts in order to meet conditions for a government loan, the UCU has said today. 

Wiltshire College in South West England has a budget deficit of £2 million owing to the impact of Covid-19, and has said that it needs a loan from the Education Skills and Funding Agency (ESFA). 

However, the conditions for the loan from the ESFA will mean that the college has to cut its wage bill. The UCU said that it was given notification of 40 job losses at the college. 


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UCU’s regional official Nick Varney said that it was “frankly offensive the government would choose to follow a formula that means staff must go before colleges receive any support – while we are in the middle of a pandemic”.

He said: “Wiltshire College provides an essential service to its local community and its finances were on the mend before Covid hit. By trying to work to current government funding rules it is putting staff at risk of losing their jobs, as well as its crucial work at risk. Ministers spent the summer talking up further education as part of the levelling-up agenda, yet poorly paid staff are now being threatened with the sack in the run-up to Christmas.

“This summer ministers promised to rebuild and level up the economy post-Covid by using further education to upskill the nation. It must now walk the walk, stop imposing outrageous conditions on loans needed to keep staff and students safe, and fund colleges properly.” 

 

A Department for Education spokesperson said: We recognise the challenges that Wiltshire College is facing as a result of Covid-19 and thank them for their continued hard work making sure students can continue to access high quality education and training.

 “We have continued to provide unprecedented support to colleges throughout the pandemic, including by guaranteeing existing grant funding, worth over £3 billion for a full year, and increased education and training investment this year for 16-19 year-olds by an additional £400 million.

“For colleges in significant financial difficulties, the existing support arrangements remain in place including short term solvency support through emergency funding.”

 The college has been contacted for comment.

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Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a FE reporter.

Find me on Twitter @KateeParker

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