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City College Plymouth principal slammed in government report on former college's finances

6 November 2018 | last updated: 7 November 2018

A damning government report into the leadership of a London college has revealed a series of failings by City College Plymouth (CCP) principal Garry Phillips. The report by the further education commissioner cites a failure of governance and leadership and the college is now in administered status.

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. Although the college went from a £5.7m surplus in 2015/16 to an £8m deficit in in 2016/17, Phillips received a 31% pay rise in 2016/17 making him the fifth highest paid principal in the country.

The report describes the relationship between those holding power at EHWLC as "cosy" and says that correct information was not always shared with the board of governors. Governors complained that they had not received inductions and requests for training were turned down. It said the college's finance committee only met twice in 2017/18.

UCU has written* to the chair of governors at CCP demanding  to know who approved the appointment of Phillips and also that of financial consultant Martin Smith who had worked with Phillips in London.

The union wants to know if the governors are satisfied that the selection processes for Phillips and Smith were robust and if they are still confident the appointments were the correct decisions.

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.'

* 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 Week report and 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 Garry Phillips. 

UCU at City College Plymouth have been repeatedly told by Garry 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 Garry 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. 

Yours sincerely

Philippa Davey, UCU regional support official
Alison Chapman, Chair of UCU City College Plymouth branch


Garry Philips, Principal
Richard Atkins, FE Commissioner