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Calls for probe into £1.5m HR spend at Perth College after 72 employees leave in a year

Trade unions have called for an investigation into HR spending at UHI.
Trade unions have called for an investigation into HR spending at UHI.

Perth College UHI has been blasted after it spent £1.5m on HR services in the last three years, only to lose more than 70 members of staff in 2019.

The institution spent almost £50,000 on HR training, nearly £42.500 on staff counselling, £14,000 on mediation and over £135,000 on HR consultancy fees in the three years up to August 2019.

College managers also spent £185,000 on financial settlements with staff and more than £50,000 on legal fees since summer 2016.

Union bosses are now calling for an independent review of operations after 72 employees left the college in the last year.

The departures came in the year the college closed three learning centres in Kinross, Blairgowrie and Crieff in an effort to cut costs, despite criticism from staff, students and politicians.

Unison said 40 members of staff had to receive counselling and 36% of the cases were for directly work-related reasons.

A further 20 employees were signed off sick with stress-related issues. The college said 15 of them had returned to work and it was still supporting helping the other five employees.

A UHI spokesperson said: “While the college had 72 leavers, over a quarter of this number related to the expiry of fixed term contracts. This number does unfortunately include the staff impacted by the closure of the learning centres.

“We acknowledge that there were a number of staff who were off sick during 2018/19 with stress related issues which is a worrying trend across the public sector and the College takes this very seriously.

“During that period however, there was a significant drop in the average number of sick days in the College for the same period.”

A Unison spokesperson said: “Our members, some of whom have worked at the college for decades, ​report suffering from work related stress and ​are now worried about losing their livelihoods​​, which further compounds their stress.

“This level of consultancy expenditure is of great concern.

“Unison urges a public, open, independent and transparent review of how HR functions can cost almost two million pounds when funding across the Further Education sector is in such jeopardy.”

Mid Scotland and Fife Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser has called for urgent change.

He said: “These very high costs on HR indicate that all is not well with staff relationships at Perth College UHI.

“A properly functioning institution would not require to be spending so much on consultancy and legal fees – in addition to nearly £200,000 on settlement payments.

“It is clear that the leadership at the college have work to do to rebuild trust with the staff. These are large sums of public money being spent and we can’t have another year with such high levels of expenditure on HR.”

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