Staff speak out over Highbury College concerns

STAFF from Highbury College have spoken out about their concerns at how the college is being run after after the revelation of a £1.4m debt owed by a Nigeria government.

Monday, 14th January 2019, 5:32 pm
Updated Tuesday, 15th January 2019, 9:07 am
Highbury College

After minutes taken from an audit committee meeting confirmed £1.4m is owed by a Nigerian coastal state, a number of current and former staff have contacted The News to express their concerns.

Staff have highlighted a lack of transparency over the project and have questioned why the money was not spent on the city's students.  

One former member of staff, who worked at the college recently, said: '˜We were never really consulted about the Nigeria project. A meeting was called and we were simply told not to discuss Nigeria. People just didn't feel comfortable in challenging leadership about the issue.'

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A current employee, who also asked to remain anonymous, also felt there was a lack of transparency in how the project was implemented.

'˜We were told an investment was happening but were never consulted. Nothing else has been said in the last two years. The management are rarely challenged on it because people are frightened of speaking up,' she explained.

'˜All staff are suffering the consequences and feel it should have been spent on students in Portsmouth,' she added.

One of the key issues for staff is the impact of budgetary constraints felt by teachers and trainers at a time when money has been directed to Nigeria.

'˜There were times when we couldn't order new resources and equipment for students and there were a lot of companies not being paid for resources,' explained the former employee.

It is a situation highlighted in the college's 2018 financial report which stated: '˜The target set by the Treasury for payment to suppliers within 30 days is 95 per cent. The college's financial report showed that during the period August 1, 2017 to July 31, 2018, the college paid less than half (48 per cent) of its invoices within this period.'

This was down 12 per cent on the 60 per cent achieved in the previous year.'

Another current member of staff has spoken out about the subsequent impact on staffing at the college.

'˜There are some serious questions regarding funding but we are being kept in the dark. In light of this debt we have a right to know what decisions were made and who made them. There have been countless redundancies in recent years and the staff have a right to know about college finances but little information has been forthcoming,' he said.

He also questioned the wisdom of selling the City of Portsmouth Centre building to the University of Portsmouth, describing the process as a '˜rushed and desperate move'.

The consensus amongst staff who contacted The News was that morale at the college was now at '˜rock bottom' and were unanimous in questioning the leadership of the college.

One member of staff said: '˜The staff feel undervalued and wonder why such poor management is still in place.'

'˜Morale at the college is very low and there have been a large number of people off with stress. I decided to leave the college as I didn't feel it was a safe place to work any more,' added her former colleague.