A COLLEGE near York made an overall loss of more than £1.5 million last year - but the acting principal says its finances have now improved and its future is "bright".

The loss was revealed in Askham Bryan College’s financial statement for the year to July 31, 2018, which said it was drawing up a recovery plan to address a "deteriorating financial position".

It said the college arranged a £600,000 short-term overdraft facility with Lloyds Bank from January to May this year, and it was forecasting a £1.4 million income reduction in its grant in 2019/20.

The report said the college’s financial health was a "challenge" due to high investment in the estate, resulting in limited cash reserves, and the recovery plan was essential if it was to have a stable and sustainable future.

It revealed that the plan included proposals to sell off a parcel of unused land and make about £1 million of cuts to costs in curriculum and support departments.

Tim Whitaker, Acting CEO and Principal, told The Press that while there was an overall financial deficit of £1.5 million in 2017/18, the college had made a surplus of just over £1.3 million when depreciation, debt repayment and interest costs were removed.

He said the college was now in a "much improved financial position" and, despite significant challenges, continued to thrive.

“The college is in a strong position and we will meet the overall target of more than £1 million savings,” he said.

“We have already made significant improvements to our financial position through planned savings and generating more income, for example through closing our Newcastle centre, and an increase in student numbers, particularly for our short courses.”

Asked if redundancies had been needed to make the savings, he said: “As with all businesses, our staffing numbers need to suit changing needs. This does mean that on occasion some staff are unfortunately made redundant whereas we have recruited additional staff in other areas.

“For example, we have seen a particular expansion and investment in our employability, progression and careers teams.”

He said the college was now enjoying "one of the most exciting periods" in its history.

“Despite well publicised government reductions in funding, which have hit everyone in the further education sector hard, the college was recently (2019) inspected by Ofsted and graded outstanding across all areas for its residential provision,” he said.

“The future is certainly bright as we also look forward to the further transformation of our farm to a high tech agricultural centre following £400,000 from our local LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) and also government funding of £1.7 million as part of the Institute of Technology collaborative bid.

“These are challenging times and we have made strategic decisions to make savings and realise under used assets. For example we have closed our Newcastle centre, and sold some land which had a very limited impact on our student education. However, we still farm 20 per cent more than at the start of the decade, well over 500 acres.”