GOVERNMENT cutbacks are leading to a jobs cull at colleges across the south, the Daily Echo can reveal.

A Daily Echo investigation has revealed than 50 staff are being to be axed at colleges in our region as further education bosses blame savage funding cuts for the job losses.

The full impact of the drastic loss of cash to sixth forms and colleges is being labelled a “national scandal” by one principal while Liberal Democrat MP Mike Thornton admitted his own coalition government needed to look again at the policy which he said was hitting the further education sector too hard.

Daily Echo: Mike Thornton MP.

Eastleigh Lib Dem MP Mike Thornton does not agree with the Government funding cuts

In a broadside against his own party Mr Thornton said he did not agree with the move and would be doing “everything he could” to get his party to look at reinstating funding.

The job losses come at a time when pupils are finishing their GCSES and about to choose which colleges and sixth forms they want to continue their education.

More than 20 jobs are being lost at City College Southampton while up to 20 more are being axed at Eastleigh College.

The Daily Echo understands that Totton College has launched a consultation regarding redundancies although principal Mike Gaston refused to comment to the Daily Echo about how many jobs could be at risk.

City College Principal Sarah Stannard said £1.5m had been wiped off her budget in the last three years.

Daily Echo: Sarah Stannard is the new principal of City College Southampton.

Southampton City College principal Sarah Stannard

Already five posts have been cut from the college's senior leadership team and 21 staff out of 297 have been told they are at risk of redundancy.

She said: “There will be further difficult decisions ahead. However, these decisions must be made to ensure that we are financially healthy and able to continue doing the great work that we are doing in educating and training.”

She said that those at risk were being given first refusal on vacant posts and being offered any new posts that were being created.

Eastleigh College confirmed they too were currently in the process of making redundancies.

Daily Echo: Advice day for school leavers at Eastleigh College

Eastleigh College will also make redundancies

A spokesman said: “In response to the Government's ongoing reductions in college funding, the college has taken the decision to reduce its support staff numbers for 2014/15. A substantial proportion of the reduction will be by way of the removal of vacant posts, early retirements and voluntary redundancies; there will however regrettably be a small number of compulsory redundancies.”

In both cases it would be support staff who were affected by the job losses.

Itchen College principal Barry Hicks said that although no redundancies had been necessary there had been changes made to the way they deliver courses.

Peter Symonds in Winchester would not be cutting jobs but its principal Stephen Carville slammed the funding cuts for being “nothing short of a national scandal”.

Barton Peveril also confirmed they were not making any redundancies, thanks to increasing student numbers.

Principal Jonathan Prest said: “I fully support a concern which is being expressed by colleges about the pressures because students from 2016 will get fewer hours of teaching than their predecessors and that is not a great deal for them.”

Nigel Duncan, principal of Fareham College, said that they were in consultation with half a dozen staff regarding redundancies but this was more to do with certain courses recruiting fewer students, staff were being taken on to cope with the demand for teaching maths and English.

Brockhurst College in the New Forest said there were “no planned redundancies” along with Richard Taunton College, in Southampton.

Mr Thornton said he felt the funding cuts had gone too far in further education.

He told the Daily Echo: “On my visits to my local colleges I have been so very impressed with the achievement of those who were over 18 who have come back into education to learn and train.

“It is these sorts of students who are being unfairly affected. I think we need to look again at the funding issue, particularly reconsidering leaving it outside the ring-fenced education budget.”

Recent spending cuts saw the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition announce that the education budget would be protected for students up to the age of 16.

But consequently the further education budget has been slashed to meet the efficiency savings set out by Whitehall.

Mr Thornton admitted it was “probably too late” to affect any change for this year's budget but he would continue to lobby cabinet colleagues.

Paul Watkins from the teaching union NASUWT said although support workers jobs were being targeted that would impact on the workload of those staff left behind and in turn affect the quality of teaching for students.

“We are saddened that colleges are having to make these drastic savings as a result consequence of the purse strings being tightened by this government.”

He said that it was “difficult to stomach” any job losses in the current climate.

  •  As previously reported by the Daily Echo principals from colleges across Southampton united in their criticism of the government cuts in a hard hitting letter to education chiefs last year.

The heads of Southampton's three colleges joined forces to battle against the proposals which they fear will damage the education of hundreds of young people in the city.

They warned that if the cuts went through, disadvantaged young people would be most at risk of being forced to leave higher education before they have achieved their qualifications.

The cuts are estimated to be affecting 600 teenagers in Southampton alone and thousands more across Hampshire.

Under the proposals, the Education Funding Agency will cut funding for 18-year-olds by 17.5 per cent from September 2014.

  •  The Department for Education insisted that the changes will affect less than a fifth of students and the cuts will be capped for the next financial year.

This, they say, will mean the average reduction for a college will be 1.8 per cent instead of three per cent.

A spokesperson added: “We have ended the historic unfair funding between schools and colleges for post-16 students by putting them on the same funding rate.

“Funding has only been reduced for 18 year olds who will already have had two years of full-time education since their GCSEs, and will be capped at 2 per cent in the next financial year.”