TWO education principals walked away with a combined payoff of £450,000 when their institutions merged to form the Capital’s new super-college – which recorded a £1 million deficit last year.
New figures reveal that Brian Lister received a severance payment of £249,000 when he stepped down as principal of Stevenson College and Miles Dibsdall was handed £202,000 when he finished as principal at Telford College.
The packages are among the five biggest payouts given to 14 college principals across Scotland, who received a total of nearly £2.4m as part of a controversial merger policy, which saw many job losses.
Stevenson and Telford came together with Jewel & Esk College to form the new Edinburgh College.
Mandy Exley, former principal of Jewel & Esk, became the first principal of the new merged institution and so did not receive a payoff at that stage. She quit the post last year, but is understood to have received an estimated £70,000 from the college – six months’ pay – for doing nothing on gardening leave.
The new figures from the Scottish Funding Council show the highest pay-off package of £315,000 was awarded to the former principal of North Glasgow College, Ronnie Knox.
The next highest – £304,000 – went to John Doyle, former principal at Coatbridge College, whose pay-off is under scrutiny from the Scottish Parliament’s public audit committee.
The row comes as lecturers at Scotland’s colleges are set to ballot on strike action over a one per cent pay offer.
Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said it was clear severance terms for lecturing and other staff had been “nowhere near” those available for senior managers.
He said: “While payment in case of redundancy is normally appropriate, it is essential the process is robust and fair, particularly when there have been significant job losses for teaching and support staff.”
An Audit Scotland report in April this year said Edinburgh College’s income in 2013-14 had been £44.4m, compared with expenditure of £45.4m. Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Tavish Scott accused the Scottish Government of “lax oversight” of the severance payments.
“These payouts symbolise just how badly the merger process was planned and scrutinised by the Scottish Government.
“It has become very clear that it is highly likely that this money cannot be returned. Was this the price worth paying to get this merger done?”
An Edinburgh College spokesman said: “The payments to the principals of our legacy colleges were made under agreed terms for voluntary severance, which were used for all staff eligible to apply for VS. Both college’s VS schemes were approved by the Scottish Funding Council. The payments reflected the service and expertise the principals had brought to their roles as leaders of high-profile public organisations.”