UCU calls for government to step in as Plymouth University boss receives crushing vote of no confidence

Staff at City College Plymouth (CCP) have delivered damning votes of no confidence in their principal, board of governors and management of the college’s finances.

All bar one of the 350 staff polled (99.7%) said they did not have confidence in Phillips as head of the college. All (100%) said they had no confidence in the appointment of Martin Smith to manage the college’s finances.

The board of governors also received overwhelming criticism as just three people said they had confidence in the governors to make sound appointments – 99% said they did not.

The college has been under pressure to explain the rationale behind appointing and then defending Phillips after a damning government report exposed serious failings at his previous college Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College (EHWLC).

Martin Smith is employed by CCP as a financial consultant. He was also previously employed at EHWLC when Phillips was in charge and before that at New College Telfordwhen Phillips was its principal.

The UCU said the vote demonstrated that staff have no confidence in Phillips and that someone with his track record should not be in charge of the college. The union said ministers now had to step in to deal with the mess.

The report, released last week by the Further Education Commissioner, cited a failure of governance and leadership at EHWLC. The college is now in administered status and Phillips is under pressure from UCU members there to repay £100,000 of bonuses and apologise for the mess he left behind.

Under Phillips’ leadership, the college went from a £5.7m surplus in 2015/16 to an £8m deficit in 2016/17. Despite this, Phillips received a 31% pay rise in 2016/17 making him the fifth highest paid principal in the country.

Following the release of the report, UCU wrote to the chair of governors at CCP demanding to know who had approved the appointment of Phillips and Smith. The letter asked if the governors were satisfied that the selection processes were robust and called for a halt to restructure plans it feared could repeat some of the costly failures made in London.

The chair of governors replied without consulting the rest of the board and said she was confident with the recruitment process and Phillips’ ability to lead the college.

UCU regional official Philippa Davey said: “Anyone with any integrity would see that this vote means staff have no confidence in any decision made by the principal and his cohort. People with the track records should not be in charge of what is a fantastic college.

“A teacher with such a failed record would not be given a job and the time has come for ministers to step in and deal with this debacle.”

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