Second financial notice for troubled Bradford College

A cash-strapped college has been hit with a notice to improve for financial control – mere months after receiving one for financial health.

Bradford College, which received two government bailouts in December alone, had already been referred to the FE commissioner after the first notice in November.

The latest notice warns that the Education and Skills Funding Agency will take further action if its conditions aren’t met.

These include developing a recovery plans focusing on “what has previously gone wrong and why, with regard to financial controls within the organisation and what actions have been taken, or are being taken, to address any identified short-comings”.

The college must “provide assurances from their internal auditors that there are adequate control processes to manage the achievement of its objectives” and that there are “effective arrangements for governance risk management and internal controls”.

It must “continue to work with the ESFA and the FE commissioner and his advisers (names to be confirmed) to undertake an independent assessment of the college’s capability and capacity to make the required changes and improvements,”.

“Once the FE commissioner has undertaken this assessment, we reserve the right to vary the terms of the NTI to reflect recommendations made,” the ESFA continued.

“If, in the ESFA’s view, the college fails to take the necessary actions (in whole or part) within the timescales to be agreed, or if evidence of progress is not appropriate or not available, the ESFA will take further action.”

As FE Week recently reported, Bradford College received two exceptional financial support payments in December, each for £1.5 million.

The FE commissioner’s report was published earlier this month, and determined that the college’s dire financial position had been a surprise to its governors, and that the board was only made aware of management concerns around finances in June last year.

He urged the board to commission “an independent piece of work to enable governors and the executive to understand what went wrong in 2016/17 and why it was not reported until after the year end”.

Minutes from the college governing board meeting on July 20 last year reveal that the college had self-assessed its financial health as ‘satisfactory’.

The group chief executive at the time, Andy Welsh – who stepped down in November – also thanked all staff for “a fantastic performance over the last year, which has seen rising income levels”.

But minutes from board meeting on November 16 show that “governors discussed the decline in the college’s financial health and the failures in the control framework which had allowed warning signs to go unheeded”.

They also “acknowledged the corporation’s duty to learn from its mistakes”.