College consults staff over possible job cuts

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THE College of West Anglia has launched a consultation with staff on proposals which could see net job losses of up to 19 staff in the coming months.

The college has blamed the need for efficiency savings totalling £1.6m in 2012-13 forced by a reduction in government funding and also the need to fund major building projects in Wisbech and King’s Lynn.

The proposals announced on March 30 are designed to make savings of £400,000 in staffing costs and £1.2m in non-pay costs.

The college employs around 800 staff and the posts which could be lost mainly affect non-teaching staff based in King’s Lynn.

The proposals also involve a range of structural changes to the curriculum, most of which will have little or no impact on students or involve loss of jobs.

However, from September 2012 new students will not be offered courses in horticulture at the Cambridge campus or textiles and A level psychology in King’s Lynn.

Current students on these courses will be able to complete their course but the courses.

Horticulture will still be offered as an apprenticeship route and textiles will be on offer within the fashion and clothing curriculum at the Isle campus in Wisbech.

The proposals also confirm the closure of the college’s land-based facility on the outskirts of Wisbech, which was announced in May 2011.

The remaining animal care courses will transfer to the Cambridge campus, which offers a range of equine, agriculture and animal care courses, whilst the uniformed services courses will transfer to the nearby Isle campus in Wisbech.

The closure of residential accommodation for learners with learning difficulties and disabilities at Plaxtole House in King’s Lynn and the closure of the Pulse8 fitness centre also at the King’s Lynn campus are also included in the proposals.

Plaxtole House provides residential accommodation from Monday to Thursday for young people with learning disabilities attending daytime courses at the college.

It also serves as an outreach centre for courses for young people with emotional and behavioural difficulties.

Remedial work costing upwards of £750,000 would be required immediately to enable the residential and outreach centre accommodation to remain open beyond July 2012 with a further £750,000 refurbishment needed in the long-term.

Without external investment, this is not possible.

College funds and loan facilities are already committed to the new technology centres in Wisbech and a major refurbishment of the tower block in King’s Lynn.

The college has been unsuccessful in its attempts to attract external investment. Therefore, the college proposes to close the residential centre and relocate the outreach provision to rented premises. The closure would result in the loss of around nine part-time posts.

Pulse8 fitness centre is located on the King’s Lynn campus and has been a key part of the college’s sports curriculum in King’s Lynn. The college moved its main sports programmes, including teaching staff and facilities, to the nearby Lynnsport last summer, originally on a temporary basis but due to the overwhelming success of this move, the relocation is now permanent. As a result, it is no longer financially viable to retain the Pulse8 fitness centre so the college intends to close it in July. The closure would see one full-time and four part-time posts lost.

Principal David Pomfret said: “We are in the middle of a well-publicised period of public sector funding cuts which is affecting colleges across the country. COWA is also undertaking major redevelopment with new technology centres in Wisbech and King’s Lynn and a major refurbishment of the nine-storey tower block in King’s Lynn. 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.

“We are committed to avoiding compulsory redundancies as far as possible and will look at a range of options to minimise this.

The consultation will finish on May 11 and final decisions will be confirmed in early June.