Friday, 7 October 2011

Concern over college funding cuts

On the day the First Minister opened the refurbished Dundee College premises, along with my colleague Cllr David May, Convener of Angus Council’s Infrastructure Committee, I met with Dundee and Angus Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Alan Mitchell, regarding our joint concerns at huge cuts to the college budgets at Angus College and Dundee College.

The Chamber of Commerce has made clear it will seek clarification from Scottish Government about the level of revenue budget cuts affecting the colleges that, for example, amount to a 13.5% reduction for Dundee College in cash terms during the period 2012/13 and 2014/15.

It is great to see the official opening of the Dundee College improved campus facilities today, but the revenue budget cuts facing the college sector are far greater than those facing much of the rest of the public sector.   The First Minister must rethink his priorities to give more priority to further education, otherwise the government’s promise that all 16-19 year olds should have a place in education or training will not be met and young people and others will be denied choices and chances.    Free prescriptions for millionaires should not be a priority;  further education must be.

After having this year’s (2011/12) funding cut by 10.4% which resulted in Dundee College having to implement £4m of savings, resulting in 120 staff job losses and a number of course cutbacks, it now appears that during the period 2012/13  - 2014/15, Dundee College funding will be cut by a further 13.5% in cash terms.    These cuts are front loaded with a 7% cash cut in 2012/13.    This represents a cash reduction of £1.4m for Dundee College.

At a time when the First Minister says he wants to invest in jobs and growth, this makes no economic sense.

My colleague, Cllr David May, has written to the Arbroath Herald as follows :

"I am appalled at what the SNP is suggesting for our universities in Dundee but the news this weekend for our colleges is devastating, as the SNP government is going to slash the budgets for our colleges in both Angus and Dundee. This will not only lead to job cuts of college staff but is bound to lead to cuts in the courses they can offer. 
Our young people in both Angus and Dundee will suffer as a result and so much for the SNP investing in the future of our young people.   Yet again, just like the proposed mergers of the two Dundee universities and the hike in business rates, I am unable to see this in their election manifesto and so, in my view, they do not have a mandate for slashing college budgets.   Furthermore how does this equate with what the SNP have said about growth in the economy?
Surely our SNP MSPs in Angus will back our young people and publicly condemn this, and vote this down in the parliament.
Cllr David May  (former Dundee secondary HT and now Convener of Infrastructure Services at Angus Council)."