Councillors back student petition to fight government funding cuts

Some of the Angus councillors visited Angus College on Tuesday to lend their weight and sign the petition about college funding cuts. Leading them with pen poised is Angus Provost Ruth Leslie Melville with Gary Paterson student representative council with councillors and students looking on.
Some of the Angus councillors visited Angus College on Tuesday to lend their weight and sign the petition about college funding cuts. Leading them with pen poised is Angus Provost Ruth Leslie Melville with Gary Paterson student representative council with councillors and students looking on.

THE STUDENT representative of Angus College has been highlighting the threats facing the institution in the light of recent Government funding decisions.

Gary Paterson, the student representative for Angus College joined colleagues from the student council and concerned students in unveiling a petition on Tuesday to be sent to the Scottish Government.

The petition requests that a portion of the £66 million extra Westminster funding be used to negate the £74 million worth of cuts being made to the further education sector next year.

Gary said: “Angus College, like others around Scotland, is facing campus crippling cuts that will result in a disastrous outcome for opportunities and employment in the local community and economy. “The cuts that are being imposed on colleges have the real risk of losing college places, courses, campuses and real opportunities for all ages. “The Scottish Government will be receiving an extra £66 million into it’s budget from Westminster. We are arguing that a significant portion of that must be spent on Further Education to avert this college crisis.”

Following the signing of the petition by local councillors and Provost Ruth Leslie Melville, Gary added: “We received much support from local people equally concerned with the future of our colleges and the effect on our community. “Support and discussion from our local councillors is welcomed. They along with our students and residents recognise the value of further education and the need to stand together to defend it.”

The petition was signed on Tuesday afternoon by Provost Ruth Leslie Melville, Carnoustie councillor Brian Boyd, Monifieth councillors Margaret Thomson and John R. Whyte and Montrose councillors David May and Mark Salmond, showing the cross-county support the college enjoys.

Independent councillor Brian Boyd was there on Tuesday to sign the petition pledging his support.

He said: “This is the first petition I have signed in many years, probably since I was a student. With 33 per cent of Carnoustie High School leavers going on to further education and 40 per cent heading to higher education it is important that we let this generation have the best chances to fulfil their life ambitions.

“I realise there will be cuts everywhere but feel these are on the harsh side. If anyone else would like to sign this petition then don’t hesitate to contact me and I will organise it. The more who sign the more the politicians will listen.”

Monifieth councillor Margaret Thomson was also at Angus College on Tuesday to show her support by signing the petition.

Councillor Thomson was concerned by the cross-section of society that would be hit by college cuts, from apprentices to members of the public looking to improve themselves, as well as the need to think about investing in the future.

She said: “We must all join together to make sure our children are not disadvantaged by the fact that they live in rural areas.

“Angus college serves our areas. The extra mural evening classes which are attended by many of our local community may be cut.

“What worries me the most is the possibility that places for apprentices will be also cut.

“I hope you will sign the petition against the cuts when you get a chance.”

Suggestions that Angus College could be merged with Dundee College have also been raised following the budget cuts and the release of the Scottish Funding Council’s joint consultation on the regionalisation of institutions.

Gary explained: “The Scottish Funding Council has proposed a funding region of Tayside which will include Dundee College and Angus College. “In monetary terms the budgets of Angus College and Dundee College are already to be merged. It is still to be seen whether or not the colleges will remain independent from each other.

“Under this funding proposal it is ever more possible a merger could happen. We need to know what that will mean for students and staff at Angus and indeed Dundee colleges. “I am concerned that in the event of a merger a large part of provision may not be supported locally. For those with family and work commitments tied into geography it has the potential to take opportunities away.

“If any provision were to be moved from Angus it would greatly affect a large amount of students and of course the local community and economy.”