College defends savings

Bosses at a Chorley college have denied claims that they are cutting staff hours, despite receiving budget cuts from central government.

A whistle-blower from the Lancashire Adult College on Southport Road claims she isn’t being given as many working hours this year, due to new cost saving measures.

She also told the Guardian that her pay packet had been hit and accused college bosses of underpaying staff for attending meetings.

The part-time contract worker, who wanted to protect her identity, said: “They are depriving workers of a basic right. We should get an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.”

The mum-of-two has worked in the sector for more than 10 years, but said she is now looking for jobs elsewhere.

She also accused management of failing to pay staff expenses and said she was having to foot the bill for teaching materials.

She added: “You see how much the people at the top are being paid, and we’re left scratching for crumbs at the bottom.

“Chorley is famous for education, and I feel so let down.”

However, Principal of Lancashire Adult Learning, Steve Hailstone, denied teaching hours had been slashed to save money, but did admit that they may have to be reduced due to reflect a fall in demand for courses.

He also insisted that staff expenses are always paid in accordance with purchasing procedures and claimed that the whistle-blower may have been confused over payment for staff meetings as they are paid at a different hourly rate to teaching.

He said: “The economic downturn is bound to have an affect on demand for paid courses.

“We have 500 part-time hourly paid tutors across three colleges in Lancashire, including Chorley’s, but we can’t pay the tutor if there aren’t enough people signing up for the classes. We can’t run a course if there isn’t the demand for it.”

Mr Hailstone admitted that he expects to see a decline in the number of people signing up for evening classes in the next year, as prices are gradually increasing.

“The fees we charge are market-driven,” he added. “This year we’ve managed to maintain numbers, but I think we may see a dip in the next academic year, which starts in August.

“We’re gradually increasing the costs of ‘leisure’ courses, such as Advanced Spanish, which people don’t normally need to help them find work.

“For example, a 60-hour language course last year would have cost £219, and this year it costs £264.

“That way, we can put money into delivering courses for those in more need, such as those looking for jobs.”

Lancashire Adult Learning is funded by the Skills Funding Agency through central government, and their budget has been cut by between one and two per cent this year, despite a national public sector reduction of 25 per cent.

Mr Hailstone said: “We have an £8million budget, and we have to meet certain targets. Our aim is to focus on apprenticeships and getting people back into employment, so these areas won’t suffer under the cuts.”