College chief hits back at striking staff

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A COLLEGE principal has hit back at protesting staff, saying that he cannot take a vote of no confidence in his leadership seriously as they are handed out “willy-nilly”.

Staff at Telford College passed the vote last month over job losses and cuts to courses after negotiations with principal Miles Dibsdall broke down – a situation which has resulted in strike action.

But Mr Dibsdall told the Evening News that despite being “disappointed”, a vote of no confidence is something which is handed out too readily at Telford – and in Scotland.

He said: “I was really disappointed with what happened. I haven’t made one compulsory redundancy, yet we had a vote of no confidence about a whole range of things.

“I was expecting it – that happens in Scotland.

“The last principal had one before he even arrived so we can’t take it seriously.

“You can’t take it seriously when they have been handed out willy-nilly.”

Mr Dibsdall’s comments came as the union offered to stop strike action if he imposed an immediate freeze on compulsory redundancies.

It has already had one day of strike action and its next one is planned for August 18.

The EIS union said Mr Dibsdall had “rebuffed” the offer.

Mr Dibsdall said he had also been disappointed that the dispute over redundancies, which could see up to 70 jobs at risk, has resulted in strike action.

However, he added he was “optimistic” they would be able to resolve their differences.

He said: “It’s disappointing we had strike action over something that hasn’t happened yet.

“I’m hopeful it won’t happen again because I don’t want it to disturb the learning process.”

Telford College is having to find savings after its funding was cut by £2.4 million, and similar cuts are expected in the next few years.

Mr Dibsdall believes the issue has now became personal.

He said: “It’s funny how government cuts have been translated into Miles’ cuts but that it’s because I’m here. I think it has become personal.

“I understand why they feel like that and I understand that they are challenged by the situation and I understand their frustrations and feelings.”

He added that further job cuts in future could not be ruled out. He said: “We think in total over three years there will be a 30 to 35 per cent cut.

“If we end up facing a 20 per cent cut in one year, any leader would be foolish to say that we can’t look at further job cuts.”

Responding to Mr Dibsdall’s comments, a spokesman for the EIS said: “Given the current malaise in staff morale and how we feel about his stewardship of the college, then it doesn’t reflect well on him.

“Given that this represents the vast majority of staff feeling, with staff unanimously passing a vote of no confidence, it shows that his is unwilling to take them seriously.”

gfraser@edinburghnews.com