STAFF at Huntingdonshire Regional College are facing redundancy as bosses seek ways of filling a £400,000 hole in its finances.

Principal Susanne Stent said compulsory redundancies were likely but the number of jobs at risk was yet to be decided.

College employees were told the news during a team briefing last Monday (March 11). The 450-strong workforce was given two weeks to come up with ideas for saving money to minimise the amount of people affected.

"This has more impact on our support staff than academic staff," said Ms Stent. "Clearly it's a worry for people and I understand that."

Last summer, the college was in a seemingly sound financial position, with a £200,000 surplus.

But less funding from central government and a drop in the number of students aged 19 and over has contributed to the shortfall.

"Like all government-funded bodies we're experiencing a funding gap," said Ms Stent. "We're not getting as much as we might have expected.

"I think people are feeling austerity hitting them in their pockets and they're thinking 'I don't want to pay for this college course right now'."

The principal, who has been at HRC for just over two years, admitted staff morale was low and there were "very difficult decisions" which needed to be made "swiftly".

"For me, it's about working with the wider staff team to make it as positive as possible.

"We have thrown open the discussion. We have a funding gap of £400,000 and we've said let's have a look at it and see what we can do," she said.

"I hope that by working this way in collaboration the situation will be one where people have ownership of ideas going forward."

Staff have been invited to "drop-in" sessions, group meetings and one-to-ones and suggestions have ranged from charging more for cups of coffee to how teams could work together more effectively.

Ms Stent stressed the financial problems would not affect the curriculum and said she hoped the student success rate would continue to improve, as it had for the last six years.

"The impact on learners and learning has to be minimal. Learners are at the heart of everything we do as a further education organisation and that has to be protected," she added.

Senior staff are due to review staff ideas at the end of the week before putting together a set of proposals.

- Ms Stent predicts the number of students aged 19 and over at HRC will increase from September if people are aware of a new government loan scheme.

The 24+ Advanced Learning Loans will be available for people wanting to study for qualifications such as A-levels, diplomas and access to higher education courses. There is no upfront fee and repayments will start only when earnings top £21,000.

INFORMATION: For more information, visit www.huntingdon.ac.uk