‘Dowry’ threat to college merger

Pershore merger debate toughens as money issues cause concern.

A proposal to merge part of Pershore Group of Colleges with Warwickshire College could be in jeopardy following confirmation from Warwickshire College that it would be unlikely to take on its Worcestershire neighbour without a substantial “dowry”. West Midlands Learning & Skills Council (LSC) head of communications Debbie Goode told HW that changes to the funding body’s financial situation since April 2006 meant it “was no longer in a position to offer financial incentives” for mergers. In discussions concerning the future of Pershore early last year, HW understands Warwickshire College principal Ioan Morgan made it clear his governors could require as much as £1m to cover the cost of future investment. When contacted by HW this week he said he had no idea there would be no money available from the LSC and that his governors would be unlikely to sanction a merger without financial support. Goode said Morgan was “chancing his arm” when he asked for the cash. She added that Warwickshire College knew of the new arrangements — something which Morgan denies. He said: “It’s going to be a very difficult negotiation. We have very sharp governors who won’t agree to merge unless they are adequately financially supported. “If you walk around the campus at Pershore you’ll see it needs massive investment. Unless we get [the money] I’d be very surprised if my governors agree to continue. “We have to be guaranteed funds to make sure the college is sustainable — not only ongoing funds but also capital to maintain Pershore to a standard.” Warwickshire College’s governors will consider all information after due diligence results in March. “Then we will have a clearer idea of the type of money we need to make Pershore sustainable. If that’s not forthcoming my governors will not agree to the merger.” Morgan added that potential benefits to Pershore would be “a sustainable future. That’s the most important thing so many colleges are facing.” The LSC said Warwickshire’s financial position was “robust”.

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