Colleges across Norfolk set for big cuts

Colleges across Norfolk are bracing themselves for big cuts – including dozens of job losses at one institution alone – as they try to adapt to significant reductions in their funding.

Yesterday City College Norwich, the College of West Anglia and Great Yarmouth College all confirmed they would need to make considerable savings in response to a 'challenging' economic situation.

Job losses are likely and some courses may also have to be scrapped in some parts of the county.

At City College, the combination of cuts to its government allocation for 16 to 18-year-old students and a drop in the amount of money it will receive towards its higher education offering will force it to make savings across the board.

Last night principal Dick Palmer confirmed cuts would be made although decisions about exactly where the axe would fall were still to be finalised. Discussions will take place over the Easter holidays.

Mr Palmer said job losses were likely as the college tried to minimise the disruption to learners and maintain the courses on offer. He added: 'Staff are aware [the cuts] are coming and that there are going to be significant cuts. We are looking at the whole of the college.'

Despite putting its fees for degree courses up to just under �6,000 from this September, the principal said City College, which has its main site on Ipswich Road in Norwich, was going to be getting less money for its higher education programme.

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He said: 'In the past, we were getting, with fees and what we get from the government, close to about �8,000 per student whereas now we are only charging �6,000. Clearly we are getting less money for our HE students but we didn't think people could afford �8,000. That's going to be a shortfall in income.'

At the College of West Anglia, the scale of its cuts have been revealed in a consultation paper sent to affected staff.

Sixty jobs are at risk, a residential block is being closed and courses axed.

In the consultation document, management warn a 'challenging' economic situation and the cost of new building work under way on the King's Lynn campus mean the college has to find savings of �1.6m.

Loss of central government funding and increased pension costs have also impacted on budgets, the consultation paper says.

Last night COWA principal David Pomfret said: 'We need to make budget savings of �1.6m in the coming year and, although we are planning to deliver the major part of this through reductions in non-pay budgets, we also need to take some tough decisions which inevitably affect jobs.'

The consultation paper warns 60 full and part-time staff are at risk of redundancy. But 28 new posts are being created and a 'net reduction' of 19 posts is expected, which will generate savings of �400,000.

Fire officers have ordered work to be carried out on the building which would cost the college �750,000, while a further �750,000 would be needed to fun other improvements, it says.

Mr Pomfret said the college could not afford to carry out work needed to keep the residential accommodation at Plaxtole House, which is currently used as a residential accommodation for 24 students with learning disabilities from Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, open.

The consultation document recommends moving students to rented accommodation and says college funds and loan facilities are committed to building new technology centres in King's Lynn and Wisbech, the refurbishment of the tower block on Tennyson Avenue and routine maintenance.

The Pulse8 Fitness Centre on the Lynn campus is also earmarked for closure and, from September 2012, textile and A level psychology courses at King's Lynn will be closed to new students.

On the other side of Norfolk, Penny Wycherley, principal at Great Yarmouth College, said it too would have to make some savings as a result of a reduction in its government funding but did not anticipate major cuts – although that would depend on its funding allocation.

The college is still in discussions over how much money it will receive from the government but is concerned the figure will be worked out based on historic data.

The college has recently bounced back from a difficult phase – which saw Ofsted inspectors rate it as inadequate – during which student numbers dropped.

Mrs Wycherley said: 'We are worried about the funding for young people and are keen to ensure that young people have the skills they need to be able to meet local business needs – in particular the needs of the energy industry which will need 45,000 engineers over the next 10 years in the East Anglia area.'

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