College chiefs blasted over £6.5m pay-offs

The college has lost 446 staff through voluntary redundancy and natural wastage. Picture: Ian Georgeson
The college has lost 446 staff through voluntary redundancy and natural wastage. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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UNIONS have slammed new figures showing Edinburgh College chiefs spent £6.5 million on severance packages in two years – while also reviewing which courses to axe.

The statistics, obtained by Unison, Britain’s second largest union, also show the college lost 446 staff through voluntary redundancy and natural wastage of workers who were not replaced. Union leaders have condemned the figures and questioned whether the college could deliver a quality service. Emma Phillips, Unison regional organiser, said: “The college is getting funding from the Scottish Funding Council to get rid of people while overall budgets have been cut. We would like to see that funding invested for the future – in students and delivering a better service.”

The information released to Unison shows a wide range of staff – from language and business lecturers to technicians and heads of department – have left Edinburgh College since 2011. The cuts come as the college continues to restructure after the merger of Stevenson, Telford and Jewel & Esk Valley colleges in October last year.

Ms Phillips said: “In any big reorganisation, there will be change but we would prefer that change is managed well. There are staff being made redundant now – the number of staff leaving the college is huge. The numbers leaving do not reflect the decrease in workload after the merger.

“Delivering a service takes people to be able to deliver it and if you do not have the staff there, it’s not possible to deliver a quality service.”

Student leaders said the severance payouts were a sign of “misguided priorities”.

Gordon Maloney, president of NUS Scotland, said: “We’ve never been opposed to mergers and regionalisation, but it has to be driven by a desire to improve the student experience and education, not simply as a cost-saving exercise.

“It would seem that’s not happening at Edinburgh. It’s hard to see how we can protect quality without protecting staff jobs. Staff are obviously entitled to fair redundancy pay, but spending millions on redundancies smacks of misguided priorities.”

College chiefs said new posts had been created that were not included in the figures and that there was no compulsory redundancy until July 2014.

A spokeswoman said: “At Edinburgh College, student numbers have risen by almost five per cent year on year. We are confident that we are fulfilling our commitment to increasing access to top-quality education across the region.

“Voluntary severance has reduced longer-term workforce costs in areas of overlap. The majority of these roles have been in management as well as support roles, where there was likely to be duplication after merger.”