THE first few months of the pandemic cost a York college £1.4 million, a report has revealed.

Askham Bryan College’s report for the year to July 2020 says the coronavirus presented the "biggest single challenge the college has faced for many generations".

However, it said the response from staff had been "magnificent", as they had demonstrated their dedication and commitment to the students, and the loss of income from residential accommodation, student catering and commercial courses had been mitigated through detailed work on the management of budgets.

The report further highlighted the continuing financial pressures on the college which have led it into a controversial decision to sell off Newton Rigg, a campus in Penrith - a move which was slated by MPs at a recent Parliamentary select committee meeting.

The report said the budget was impacted by a need to include £740,000 for redundancy and "pension strain costs" relating to the decision to close Newton Rigg.

It said that if there was any significant delay to the sale of the campus, the college would need to obtain short term funding to meet cash flow requirements.

It said the college had a long term objective of a "good" financial health assessment but had been given a rating of "requires improvement" due to the exceptional costs relating to closure. Excluding this, a "good" rating would have been achieved.

“The college is making strategic changes to its operating structure in order to improve its long term financial stability, striving to achieve a financial health score of good,” it said.

The report said the college had a deficit of £3.6 million in 2019/20, compared to £1.9 million in 2018/19, but there had been a surplus of £340,000 before pension costs and provision for redundancy and pension strains.

In 2019, the college had sold 147 acres of agricultural land at York no longer required for curriculum delivery, with £300,000 used to invest in IT infrastructure and systems and the remaining £960,000 to "increase cash reserves and improve liquidity".