UCU demands college spending probe by the public accounts committee

The University and College Union (UCU) has called for a parliamentary investigation into college spending.

The call follows UCU claims that Warwickshire College had paid more than half a million pounds to the Gazelle Colleges Group and had raised its principal’s pay by £50,000 in two years while almost 100 staff face redundancy due to budget cuts.

We would urge the Public Accounts Committee to properly investigate how taxpayers’ money is being spent by our colleges.”

UCU regional official, Anne O’Sullivan, said: “The time has come for proper scrutiny of colleges’ spending. We would urge the Public Accounts Committee to properly investigate how taxpayers’ money is being spent by our colleges.”

The claims follow freedom of information (FOI) requests which UCU submitted to the college, which also revealed pay raises and bonuses for senior managers and an FE Week investigation which discovered the college had paid Gazelle more than £530,000, including £324,000 for “new education concepts”.

Warwickshire College principal Mariane Cavalli has taken a “temporary leave of absence” and has been replaced on an iterim basis by chair of governors Sue Georgious.

Ms O’Sullivan said: “Almost 100 members of staff at the college might lose their jobs, pay has been driven down in recent years and yet we are starting to uncover details of massive pay rises for a principal now on leave and for other senior managers.

“The college needs to open its books up and explain why such large sums were given to the Gazelle group of colleges and what new education concepts are and why they cost £324,000.

“We also need to know what has been spent on overseas travel and expenses, why senior managers got such big pay rises and who is getting a bonus on top of their salary and why.”

UCU said its FOI had revealed that real-terms staff pay had fallen by 16 per cent in the last five years, while an unnamed manager had received a £15,000 bonus.

In May, Ms Cavalli said a shortfall in funding of £3m made job losses at the college seem ‘inevitable’ and June 19 the college announced that up to 99 jobs were at risk of redundancy.

Warwickshire College declined to comment.