Page last updated at 06:59 GMT, Wednesday, 4 March 2009

College staff protest over cuts

Sixth-form students
Unions fear student numbers could be affected by the cuts

Staff at Neath Port Talbot College are to walk out in protest over a 1.6m cut in the college's budget.

It follows a Welsh Assembly Government announcement of cuts in sixth form and further education funding across Wales.

Unions said the college would have to raise some of its student charges, and called for an urgent meeting with the assembly government.

College principal Mark Dacey said he understood the concerns of staff. The protest is happening at 1230 GMT.

In a statement, Mr Dacey said: "It is a sign of the professionalism of all the staff at all of the campuses of Neath Port Talbot College that they have chosen to do this at a time which will not disrupt any of our students.

"This shows their commitment even during such a period of uncertainty."

Student numbers

Members of lecturers' union UCU and public sector union Unison, which includes technical, kitchen and ground staff at the college, are talking part in the walk-out.

Unison regional organiser Andrew Woodman said: "The college is engaged in a redundancy consultation with us and the other trade unions at present.

"They hope to avoid compulsory redundancies but we are urgently seeking confirmation of this.

"In a bid to raise additional funds the college is having to introduce higher charges to students for meals, examinations and bus travel, amongst other things.

"In a deprived area like Neath Port Talbot our fear is this will impact on student numbers leading to even greater cuts in college funding."

The unions want the assembly government to follow a recent UK government initiative which saw the skills secretary John Denham announce 500m for colleges to help people affected by the economic downturn retrain.

'Apprenticeships'

An assembly government spokesman said: "We are facing tough economic choices and a difficult budget settlement has meant having to make difficult choices - but the reductions have applied equally across all sectors.

"In the case of Neath Port Talbot College, the overall budget reduction has been mitigated by a small increase in activity, but the Welsh Assembly Government appreciates that the funding outcome will be difficult for the college and we are working with them to minimise the overall impact.

"We have recently announced a 68m package for apprenticeships and ProAct training packages to support businesses, employees and learners during these challenging economic times.

"Further education institutions will be able to access this funding."



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