Milton tells college leaders to use money 'wisely' before asking Treasury for more cash

The skills minister has told college leaders that they need to use their money and resources “wisely” before making the case for more funding to the Treasury.

Addressing the Association of Colleges conference in Birmingham today, Anne Milton (pictured) said that “all too often I sign off on requests for emergency financial support” and there are too many colleges in “severe financial constraints that could have been avoided with good leadership”.

Repeating what she told FE Week readers in her monthly column two weeks ago, she delegates: “A one-off campaign is not enough on its own, you must get your leadership and governance right and use your money wisely.

“You must make good use of the money available and good use of the resources we put your way. Then, and only then can I and you make the case for additional.”

Ms Milton’s comments follow a spate of resignations from college leaders. Eight have stepped aside in eight weeks, and the majority left their colleges in very poor financial positions.

Some were the best paid in the country, with salaries topping £200,000.

“In this day and age robust financial management and leadership is the route to successful colleges,” the minister told today’s AoC conference.

“I would like to see a positive vision for FE. I want colleges to stand on their own ground and be proud of the incredible results they achieve.

“My ask of you is to help me to help you.”

Speaking to the media after her speech, Ms Milton said: “Anywhere in the public sector good places have good leadership.

“We need to up the game because I need to demonstrate a college sector that is performing well.”

Asked if she had told FE Commissioner Richard Atkins to clampdown on poor leadership, she added: “The FE Commissioner’s team is a resource that can help troubled colleges.

“Colleges are independent institutions so you can’t force anybody out but if colleges aren’t performing well and you’re the person in charge you probably need to reconsider your position, nobody needs to say it.”

And asked if she thought that high-paid leaders shouldn’t jump ship when their college gets in trouble, Ms Milton said: “That is a judgement call depending on the circumstances.

“Sometimes it is better if they go and sometimes it is better if they stay, you can’t generalise. But they are big bucks.”