College Faces Financial Challenges

Cupar's Elmwood College could be facing a number of job losses as it battles to gain an even financial footing, achieve a "turnaround" figure of £600,000 and establish a £200,000 contingency fund.

The startling news has been clearly spelt out to college staff through their trade unions in a notice from principal Jim Crooks, who has warned that up to 15 jobs could go among almost 500 staff at the college, who include around 215 employees currently on temporary contracts.

In the notice to the unions, Mr Crooks has said that the college is currently faced with a deficit in its finances and has been looking at a number of ways of addressing the issue, including "staff efficiencies".

He said that the problem had been considered by a number of working groups, and a preliminary report had been made to the board of of management on March 14.
The recommendation, he said, had been that in order to achieve targeted efficiency the college should consider reducing its current staffing complement as a possible means of addressing the deficit.

He said that the board of management had asked him to consult with staff, and to enter into a period of collective consultation with representatives of staff who might be affected.

Representatives of the unions involved have now been invited to a series of collective consultation meetings starting at the end of next week.

Mr Crooks said that that the adoption of such a process could involve the dismissal of a significant number of employees, when the redundancies caused by the ending of current fixed term staff contracts at the end of term are taken into account.

He added number of redundancies on which the college is consulting , whether voluntary, or voluntary and compulsory, is 14.5 full time equivalent.

The consultation process, said the principal, would look at ways of avoiding dismissals, reducing the number of employees to be dismissed, and mitigating the consequences of the dismissals.

Mr Crooks has advised the staff that the college wants to achieve financial savings necessary to address the predicted net turnaround figure, but he also made it clear that the college might have limited options available to it through which the aim can be achieved.

It has been made clear that the proposed method of selecting employees who may be dismissed had not yet been determined and is a matter for the consultation, and that no dismissals will will carried out until the consultation process has been concluded.

Mr Crooks recently told the "Courier" that the situation with regard to the college finances is not entirely new and he was aware that some work would be required in this area when he took up the post.

He said that actual position could only be fully known after the publication of the end of year accounts for 2006/07 but as these are not yet in the public domain because of Parliamentary procedure, he cannot comment in detail.

"The proposals we are consulting on - there are no decisions as yet - will help us achieve a firm financial foundation for the next stage of Elmwood's development.  
"I made the situation known to staff in general terms in December 2007 and I have responded to subsequent queries from unions" he said.

Mr Crooks said that the current proposals, which are to be the subject of the consultation exercise, though regrettable, would potentially affect less than 3% of the college staff.”


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