THE proposed merger of two Tees Valley colleges has been abandoned.

Darlington College and Stockton Riverside College had been working towards an autumn deadline for their plans but have announced that they will definitely not be going ahead.

The move comes as Darlington College looks to balance its books in the face of its perilous financial position caused by reduced funding from the government.

Lecturers and support staff were told last month that college’s finances are in a precarious position and that some could be £3,500 out of pocket.

A month-long consultation was launched into a review of salaries, believed to bring staff into line with other colleges across the Tees Valley, and could see lecturers in the highest pay bracket lose £3,582 a year, senior lecturers losing between £541 and £1,642, and instructors seeing their salaries reduced by between £728 and £2,168.

And last week lecturers left the classroom in protest over the “savage” wage cuts just weeks after casting a vote of no confidence in Darlington College management.

Yesterday, in a note send to all members of staff, chairman of governors Pat Howarth confirmed the merger would not go ahead and said the college had learnt lessons from working closely with another college.

He wrote: "There is also clearly an advantage in coming to a decision early, before the autumn term/October date originally envisaged. It reduces uncertainty at a time of significant change for the FE sector nationally, and allows us to put all our energies into building and sustaining a successful standalone college in Darlington.

"The Board and the Executive team are completely committed to building on our strategic objectives around maintaining the high quality and reputation of our provision, and developing greater financial security and sustainability for the college. We thank all our staff too for their ongoing commitment."

The merger was proposed last year as part of a major overhaul of post-16 education across the Tees Valley but has failed to materialise.

A statement issued on behalf of both governing bodies – Pat Howarth, Darlington College and Mark White, Stockton Riverside College – read: "After careful consideration and detailed discussions, the governing bodies of Stockton Riverside College and Darlington College have decided not to pursue the proposed merger.

"Both Darlington and Stockton Riverside College remain committed to working together, exploring collaboration and potential future partnership activity but we feel the risk of a full merger at this point in time outweighs the potential benefits to students, stakeholders and staff.

"Both colleges remain fully focussed and firmly committed to meeting the education and skills needs in the areas that they serve and are passionate about supporting learning, skills development and employment across the region."

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