More than 100 staff have been shed at Edinburgh College as part of a cost-cutting drive, with more cuts on the way to tackle a £2.5 million funding black hole.
The redundancies are unlikely to meet the scale of savings needed at the institution and Scotland’s public spending watchdog has now issued a warning that bosses must “closely monitor” its financial performance.
But “good progress” has been made with a business transformation plan (BTP) aimed at balancing the books. The deficit has fallen from £7m in 2015/16 to a better-than-expected £2.5m the following year.
Edinburgh College was formed six years ago after the merger of the city’s Jewel and Esk, Telford and Stevenson colleges. Its early years have coincided with swinging cuts across the college sector that have seen student numbers plunge. The latest findings have emerged in a report by Audit Scotland into the college’s finances.
The figures come at a time of upheaval for the institution, with Professor Sir Ian Diamond having been appointed its new chair last month and principal Annette Bruton set to go in August. Voluntary severance schemes over the past few years have seen 112 staff leave, but bosses had been keen to get about 20 more. A fresh scheme was launched last month with the aim of saving about £350,000, but the public spending watchdog said this would be “challenging”.
“Total savings from the voluntary severance schemes will not achieve the original anticipated target,” the report states. Other cutbacks are now being looked at by bosses, the report adds, with previous savings made in areas such as property and IT costs.
Auditor General Caroline Gardner said: “It is imperative that the college now maintains momentum and continues to closely monitor its financial performance as it moves towards financial sustainability.”
Ms Bruton said the college was heading for a “sustainable future” following the success of a strategic plan to tackle its deficit.
“Like the rest of the college sector we must continue to carefully navigate ongoing financial pressures,” she said.
“However, our transformation programme means we are in strong shape to deal with future challenges.” The college has also exceeded its target in recruitment of students this year.