College merger branded a decoy

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An Angus councillor has called the merger of Angus and Dundee colleges a distraction to deflect attention from £50 million of education cuts.

The comments from Monifieth and Sidlaw Labour councillor Margaret Thomson come on the advent of the opening of the new Angus and Dundee ‘supercollege’ and the production of a report by Audit Scotland, the government spending watchdog.

It said: “Scotland’s colleges face considerable challenges in the years ahead.

“As part of overall public sector spending reductions, Scottish Government revenue grant support to colleges is likely to fall from £545 million in 2011/12 to £471 million in 2014/15. This represents a reduction of 24 per cent in real terms.

“The sector may also face pressure from a range of increasing costs.”

Councillor Thomson said: “The proposed merger of Angus and Dundee Colleges to form a new ‘supercollege’ is an attempt to deflect the public’s attention away from the £50 million cuts in spending in the sector across Scotland.

“This merger will reduce jobs and prospects in Angus at a time when we should be encouraging both to stimulate the economy.

“The creation of the supercolleges in Scotland is about saving money when it should be about equipping young people with the training and skills that they require to get into work, particularly during hard economic times.”

According to the report, given high staffing costs further savings are likely to be made resulting in job losses. The report stated: “Staff costs are on average about 60 per cent of annual expenditure, so it is likely that colleges will need to make savings through reducing staff numbers, based on a clear assessment of the workforce numbers and skills needed in the future.”

Councillor Thomson added: “These cuts will undoubtedly lessen the ability of the colleges to serve their communities to the highest standards.”