Birmingham college balances books to avoid closure threat
A leading Birmingham college has had the threat of closure or forced merger removed after turning around a previous budget deficit of more than £1 million.
The risk of closure had been imposed on City College Birmingham by the Learning and Skills Council, which is responsible for further education funding on behalf of the Government.
It had placed the college, which has 25,000 students spread across nine city campuses, on a financial Notice to Improve after failing to achieve its student target over the last three years.
But interim principal David Gibson, a former chief executive of the Association of Colleges, who was brought in to turn things around, said the official notice had now been withdrawn by the LSC.
Mr Gibson said the college had worked hard to reduce its deficit after the LSC had served it with the financial notice.
This meant that if the college failed to prove it was solvent, it could have been closed or forced to merge with another institution.
Much of the cost saving has involved redundancies, with members of the University and College Union staging a one-day strike in June at the planned loss of a further 76 jobs.
The interim said a new draft budget had been put before the governors last month.
“We believe that, next year, we will have a better than break-even budget,” he added.
Mr Gibson said they had been fighting for the very survival of the college and had taken some very difficult decisions to ensure they could balance the books.
Meanwhile, City College has decided not to continue its legal fight against education watchdog Ofsted over a critical report.
The college failed to obtain an injunction in the High Court in London last month to prevent Ofsted from publishing the report, which awarded inadequate grades for overall effectiveness of provisions and achievement and standards.
Instead, City College is to pursue a complaint to the Ofsted independent adjudicator.
Mr Gibson, who will stand down once a new permanent principal is appointed, said: “Governors considered how much it could potentially be in terms of cost to appeal against the High Court decision, both on our side and the other party’s costs if we proved unsuccessful.
“So they have decided instead to take a complaint to the Ofsted independent adjudicator, which doesn’t carry anywhere near the same costs.”
Ofsted had accused the college during the High Court hearing of trying to suppress the report.
But Mr Gibson claimed that its recovery plan had been vindicated by Ofsted inspectors despite the report branding the two areas as inadequate.
He said: “There was so much positive comment in the report, which was also very clear in acknowledging that the college is making progress in the right direction.