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Staff joy as duo exit

Staff at East Yorkshire College are rejoicing at the departure of a management duo - principal, David Brewer, who is on "gardening leave", and the college's executive director, Malcolm Dunwell, who has just resigned.

The list of management problems at the Bridlington college is long.

An unpublished March 2000 funding council report into management at the college, obtained by The THES, found "serious deficiencies in the college's financial practices and internal controls".

The college had been illegally holding back staff pension payments, the Further Education Funding Council said. "The college has withheld pensions contributions beyond the statutory date," the council's audit team reported. "This illegal practice was not brought to light through the college's own systems but through a complaint made direct to the FEFC."

While planning for 25 redundancies, Mr Brewer negotiated a package guaranteeing him 12 months' salary if he was made redundant. This was re-negotiated last month back to four months after the intervention of the FEFC.

After its special investigation, the funding council lowered the 1998 assessment grade given for the quality of the college's management from a grade three - satisfactory- to a grade four - "less than satisfactory provision in which the weaknesses clearly outweigh the strengths". It found that measures to address a financial crisis, praised in 1998 as "prompt action", had failed. The college is in deficit.

Nathfe carried out a staff survey in October 1999 following an unusually high level of complaints and casework from the college. The survey of 27 members found job insecurity, low morale, complaints of "autocratic management", work-related stress and many allegations of bullying from managers.

Governance had already been condemned as poor after the FEFC's 1998 inspection. Governors were found to be not fulfilling their responsibilities under the financial memorandum with the FEFC, and were breaching instruments and articles of governance. The quality assurance systems were described as "weak" by the FEFC.

The college was found to have unfairly dismissed middle manager Jean Harper after 15 years' service in a 1998 employment tribunal judgment. At the hearing, the then finance director Michael Dobson "admitted to being part of a conspiracy (with both Brewer and Dunwell) to get rid of (Ms Harper) and two colleagues", according to the tribunal chair. The chairman said that Mr Brewer's evidence had been "distinctly unhelpful" and "characterised by a mixture of verbosity and evasion". Mr Dunwell, the chair said, "visibly struggled at times to justify a procedure, which we have found... to have been a charade and a sham."

Earlier this month, the FEFC imposed two of its representatives on the college's governing body and a new acting principal was appointed.

Want to blow the whistle?

Contact Phil Baty on 020 7782 3298 or email him onphil.baty@thes.co.uk

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