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UCU: Government policy leads to staff sack threat at Covid hit Wiltshire College


Wiltshire College has threatened to sack staff to meet government conditions for a loan. The University and College Union (@UCU) today (Friday) said the conditions were ‘offensive’, and fly in the face of government promises to support colleges as part of the levelling up agenda.  

The college says it has a budget deficit of around £2m due to the impact of Covid. It says it is having to go to the government body responsible for funding colleges, the Education Skills and Funding Agency (ESFA), to ask for a loan to cover the cost. The college says the conditions for a loan set out by ESFA’s methodology mean it will have to slash its wage bill, and it has now threatened to cut jobs. The college also projects more costs and income losses over the current academic year due to the public health crisis. Yesterday (19 November) UCU was given notification of up to 40 job losses at the college. 


Westminster has told English colleges they must fund all extra costs of making their campuses Covid secure through existing funds. Yet this summer the government said further education would be central to upskilling the nation as part of the post-Covid recovery and levelling up agenda. It has also supported other sectors of the economy with extra funding to get them through these difficult times. 


UCU said Wiltshire College provides a unique and diverse service to the many communities it serves, and that it believes the college was heading for financial health before Covid hit. The union said sacking staff will make it harder for the college to help any local and national social and economic recovery efforts after the pandemic, and that government policy that leads to job losses in further education is not fit for purpose.   


UCU Regional official Nick Varney said:

 ‘Wiltshire College provides an essential service to its local community and its finances were on the mend before Covid hit. By trying to work to current government funding rules it is putting  staff at risk of losing their jobs, as well as its crucial work at risk. Ministers spent the summer talking up further education as part of the levelling up agenda, yet poorly paid staff are now being threatened with the sack in the run up to Christmas. It is frankly offensive the government would choose to follow a formula that means staff must go before colleges receive any support – whilst we are in the middle of a pandemic. This summer ministers promised to rebuild and level up the economy post-Covid by using further education to upskill the nation. It must now walk the walk, stop imposing outrageous conditions on loans needed to keep staff and students safe, and fund colleges properly.’ 

UCU is a campaigning union intent on driving up the standard of working practice and conditions of employment of our members across the FE and HE Sectors. This occasionally means our members face the prospect of taking some form of industrial action. The UCU Fighting Fund helps us all support our members who lose pay during these actions.

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