Strikes could happen over Joseph Priestley campus closure

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Leeds City College’s Joseph Priestley Campus in Morley is earmarked for closure due to £11m worth of funding cuts.

Teaching staff could now vote to strike over the plans, which could involve around a quarter of lecturing staff losing their jobs.

The University and College Union (UCU) said they were preparing a ballot for industrial action at the campus.

The UCU’s regional official Julie Kelley said: “Further education colleges are experiencing difficult times thanks to big cuts in government funding. However, the pace and scale of the job losses at Leeds City College and Bradford College is astonishing.

“We believe cuts of this size would cause real damage to the region’s chances of offering high-quality training and education for students and local businesses. Furthermore, the loss of such a large number of skilled jobs will have a significant impact on the local economy.

“Industrial action is always a last resort, but UCU will be announcing a timetable for the ballots in the next few days and regrettably strike action cannot be ruled out at either college.”

A statement issued by Leeds City College, which runs the Morley campus, said that proposals are in place to potentially close “a small number of community centre, Joseph Priestley Campus in Morley being one of those under discussion.”

However, the college says that it is important to empathise that proposed ‘site closure’ does not necessarily mean closing all provision with some courses possibly being transferred to other sites and some “may still be offered locally, for example the proposals for Morley include the relocation of High Needs (Foundation Learning) provision to alternative premises.”

The statement added: “Leeds City College has in recent years made significant changes to help sustain its financial viability. Outgoing reductions in public sector spending has meant the college has had to continuously review its business operations and evolve to the needs of a changing and challenging environment.
“Within this climate of public sector funding reductions, Leeds City College is again facing a significant funding challenge for the 2015/2016 academic year - it has seen a 20 per cent reduction in its adult skills budget, along with reductions in funding from the Education Funding Agency for its 16-18 provision.

“Additional budgetary pressures means that the college needs to go through an overall cost reduction of £10.88m this year.

“The college is working hard to absorb as much of the reductions in income as possible from non-pay budgets, but regrettably, it is envisaged that there could be an impact on the courses offered, estate portfolio and staffing levels.

“The college has now entered into a period of consultation with proposals being presented to staff from this week.”

Leeds City College Principal Peter Roberts said: “Once again Leeds City College is having to address the impact of national funding cuts on the further education sector as a whole and unfortunately there will be an impact on the courses we offer and where and how we deliver them.”

The statement added: “Leeds City College continues to retain a full commitment to its students. The consultation process will be concluded in plenty of time to inform both existing and future students (or parents/guardians where appropriate) about the future of what will be offered and where for September 2015.

“This will ensure that the standard college enrolment procedure, support and guidance will be operated as normal for courses beginning in September.”