New state-of-the-art facility at college could mean job losses

    West Kent College

    Staff from the Hadlow Group’s Tunbridge Wells campus are being relocated to the West Kent College site in Tonbridge as part of wider restructuring plans.

    The move has raised concerns that there will be job losses and, according to senior management, consultation has begun with 50 staff at its North Farm site.

    However, the group has confirmed it aims to minimise redundancies as it moves specialist construction sector and motor vehicle courses from Tunbridge Wells to Tonbridge.

    A recent review of the Hadlow Group by the Government Skills Funding Agency showed its West Kent and Ashford Colleges were rated as outstanding for their financial performance.

    But a senior spokesperson said the present Tunbridge Wells site was ‘not fit for purpose’ and closing it would pave the way for a planned new multi-million facility at its West Kent campus focused on construction industry and engineering teaching.

    He said: “When we took over K College in 2014 we made the decision to run all its provisions as they were for two years, and we would evaluate them after that.

    “We have identified that the courses at Tunbridge Wells will relocate to Tonbridge, where we have planning permission for a state-of-the-art facility there for construction and motor vehicles.

    “The site at Tunbridge Wells doesn’t belong to us and is something that we inherited – it is essentially just two industrial units – and we are having to bus in 40 per cent of a total of around 220 students there from Tonbridge. So from a business perspective and from a student experience point of view we have decided to relocate these courses,” explained the spokesperson, who confirmed the proposed move would take place from this September, which would enable the group to build on its stable financial foundations.

    He added that Hadlow remained in conversation with Tunbridge Wells Borough Council about potentially opening a future new campus within the town.

    On the issue of redundancies at its North Farm site, the spokesperson added that negotiations would be continuing over the next five weeks.

    But with many of the existing courses being transferred to Tonbridge, he believed that a number of staff would be retained as part of the move.

    He added: “It is never an easy process over redundancies, but we have to prioritise investment in our colleges and our students. “We are consulting with staff and will be looking to relocate them within the business.”

    Mike Moran, regional official for the University and College Union, expressed concern about potential job losses as a result of the campus closure.

    He said: “UCU is concerned about the proposed site closure, which would have a major impact on both staff and the local community. We will be meeting urgently with the college to discuss the situation and will work to defend members’ jobs.”