Under-fire City College Plymouth (CCP) principal Garry Phillips has resigned after a damning report exposed serious leadership failings at his previous college.

The University and College Union (UCU) said it was right he had stepped aside, but that it was frustrating it had taken so long. Although the report was released on Friday 2 November, Phillips and the college’s governors refused to acknowledge its damning criticisms or last Friday’s overwhelming vote of no confidence by college staff in both the principal and the board.

The report, from the Further Education Commissioner, cited a failure of governance and leadership at Phillips’ previous college - Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College. 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 financial consultant Martin Smith, who had worked with Phillips at at least two previous colleges.

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:

‘Following Phillips’ departure, it is time to halt his redundancy plans and for the governors to work with us to move forwards. It is frustrating that staff were forced to deliver such a damning no confidence vote in Phillips and the governors for action to be taken. We now need to all work together to help move this fantastic college forward.’


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). 

Garry Phillips was in charge at Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College (EHWLC) until March this year. He took up his role at CCP in July. Martin Smith is also 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 Telford when Phillips was its principal.

The University and College Union (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.

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.’

Full results:

99.7% of staff polled said no to the question “Do you have confidence in Garry Phillips as chief executive of our college?”

Yes 1 No 349

100% of staff polled answered no to the question “Do you have confidence in Martin Smith’s appointment to control and manage the college’s finances?

Yes 0 No 350

99.1% of staff polled answered no to the question “Do you have the confidence in the current governors to make sound and robust appointments for senior leaders at our college?”

Yes 3 No 347


Members of the University and College Union (UCU) at City College Plymouth (CCP) are being asked if they have any confidence in principal Garry Phillips and the board of governors to continue to run the college. The poll closes at 11am on Friday.

The union is also requesting individual meetings with all college governors after the chair of governors dismissed the union’s concerns following a damning government report into Phillips’ leadership failings at his previous college.

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 also that of financial consultant Martin Smith who had worked with Phillips in London.

The letter asked if the governors were satisfied that the selection processes for Phillips and Smith were robust called for a halt to restructure plans it feared could repeat some of the costly failures made in London.

UCU is also calling for a halt to a proposed restructure until the plans, including job losses, have been properly scrutinised by governors with experience in finance and property. The union says the report into the failings at EHWLC has highlighted areas of concerns that could see similar errors being made at CCP.

UCU regional official Philippa Davey said: 

‘This extraordinary report rubbishes claims from Garry Phillips that he turned round his former college. The governors at City College must take us through the processes that saw him and Martin Smith appointed.

‘The governors must also immediately halt the current restructure plans. We have serious concerns that we could see some of the same costly failures from the London college repeated here.’

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:

‘We are absolutely stunned by the college’s response to our letter. It is totally inadequate and insulting to staff. Clearly the other governors have not been consulted and we have written to them to ask if they are happy with the Further Education Commissioner's findings and the response from the chair of governors.

‘We are also polling our members to ask if they have any confidence in Garry Phillips and the governors continuing to lead the college.’ 

 

*Full Letter

 
 

To The Chair of Governors

Pauline Odolinski OBE

Dear Pauline,

We are sure that you are as shocked as us to read the FE Commissioner’s Intervention Report regarding the catastrophic failure of leadership and governance at Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College, under the leadership of Gary Phillips. 

UCU at City College Plymouth have been repeatedly told by Gary that he turned Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College around and brought about financial stability.  The FE Commissioner’s report has shown this to be untrue.

City College Plymouth is also in a precarious financial position and UCU are under the impression that Gary was recruited by Governors on the basis that he had the experience to reverse this and build both income and quality. 

We have raised a number of concerns in formal meetings regarding oversight by Governors and the projected outcomes of proposed changes on quality, income and sustainability. 

With this in mind, UCU request the following as a matter of urgency:

  1. An immediate meeting with yourself, as Chair of Governors, to discuss our concerns.
  2. To receive assurances from all of the 8 Governors who unanimously agreed his appointment on 6th March 2018 that they are satisfied that the selection process was safe and robust and that, having read the report, they are confident it was the correct decision and that they were given the full facts regarding his previous position.
  3. To receive assurances from Governors that the appointment of Martin Smith as a financial consultant has been through a robust procedure that has included full disclosure of his part in the financial failure of Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College. We would also like to know who agreed that appointment.
  4. To call a halt to the proposed restructure and redundancies until they have been fully scrutinised by Governors with experience in finance, quality, curriculum, estates and apprenticeships. The FE Commissioners report has highlighted areas of concern that could be replicated at City College and we are sure Governors would not wish to see this repeated.  

We would like it noted that there are staff who have felt pushed in to voluntary redundancy and although we would not wish to call a halt to these we will be advising all members to contact us if they feel they have been pushed into decisions that they are not comfortable with.

We request an urgent response and this letter will be sent to all members at 1600 today. 

Yours sincerely

Philippa Davey, UCU regional support official

Alison Chapman, Chair of UCU City College Plymouth branch

Cc:

Gary Philips, Principal 
Richard Atkins, FE Commissioner

 

 

** Response from the CCP Chair of Govenors

UCU response letter from Chair of Governors

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