Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Totton sixth-form college cash crisis 'caused by cuts'

Totton College Image copyright Val Pollard
Image caption Pupils at Totton have been advised to move to another college to finish their A-Levels

A financial crisis faced by a sixth-form college is the result of coalition cuts, according to petitions launched by the local Labour and Green parties.

Totton College, in Hampshire, has been seeking a merger partner to tackle its "growing financial challenges".

Green, Labour and Lib Dem candidates in the local and parliamentary elections have set up petitions calling for help in securing the college's future.

The Conservatives said the petitions were a bid to score political points.

Funded by central government's Education Funding Agency the college, near Southampton, announced last week it would scrap A-Levels, focussing instead on vocational courses.

Accusation of scaremongering

It would not comment on speculation ex-offenders charity NACRO was a potential merger partner.

The first petition, against the transfer of college facilities to NACRO, was launched by David Harrison, a Liberal Democrat councillor and campaign manager for New Forest East parliamentary candidate Bruce Tennent. It has been signed by more than 800 people.

A counter-petition, by New Forest East Labour Party and candidate Andrew Pope, signed by about 40 people, accused Mr Harrison of "scaremongering".

Last week, New Forest district candidates Joanna Tidbury and Helen Field launched their own petition, although it did not mention their Green Party affiliation.

"We didn't want it to be party political," Ms Field said.

Conservative parliamentary candidate Julian Lewis said: "The Education Funding Agency have been working tremendously hard to find a viable partner to enable the college to continue.

"I deplore any attempt to make party political propaganda points or to start scare stories at such a sensitive and difficult time."

'Bail college out'

Mr Tennent admitted he was "apprehensive" about a potential NACRO merger, but added: "I would want Totton College to offer the community as wide a range of vocational qualifications as possible and not narrow that offering to a core audience.

"It may well be that with the help of NACRO... that this can happen, so I welcome their potential financial support of the college."

Green Party parliamentary candidate Sally May said: "I know Hampshire County Council has got a huge amount of money and I think this is a case where they could bail them out.

"I've been told by a county councillor that's not possible but I don't see why. Maybe I have a simplistic view of money."

UKIP's Roy Swales said: "I will support any effort to retain this college and maintain its links as a community educational asset."

The college's acting principal Jo Landles said the decision to scrap A-Levels had been taken "with great regret".

"We believe that by making a clear decision now, we are giving prospective students sufficient time to consider their options," she said.

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