£10k monthly security bill for Barlaston college shut to save £28k a year
SECURITY costs have hit almost £10,000 a month at a council-run residential college which was shut to help save £28,000 a year.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council is also forking out on utility bills at the mothballed Wedgwood Memorial College as the institution's power supply is needed for security systems.
The college was closed in April to save £28,000 a year as part of £24 million budget cuts.
But figures obtained by The Sentinel show the authority spent £9,093 on security at the Barlaston college's two sites in the first month of its closure.
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The bulk of the cash was spent on hiring security personnel to keep watch.
If the council is unable to find a cheaper alternative or sell the complex it faces an annual bill of around £110,000 for security alone.
The Save Wedgwood Memorial College group claims it can independently run the college without subsidy but has already had four business cases rejected by the council.
Organiser Derek Tatton, of Leek, who was principal at the college for 24 years before retiring, said: "It underpins our case that the city council is now wasting taxpayers' money by keeping the buildings empty when we have a plan in place to run the college at no cost to the city.
"We are hoping very shortly to have another updated business plan to put before the cabinet."
The council claims the college would have required future subsidies of £160,000 to keep operating as it was not meeting its targets.
But campaigners, who have secured more than £53,000 in pledges as part of their fight, say they could run the college at a profit by focusing on its traditional strengths of education and residential courses.
Campaigner Karen Carlin, aged 51, of Fenton, said: "We have been arguing for some time that it was going to cost the council a lot of money to keep this place closed.
"As a campaign we're seeking further business advice from the North Staffordshire Chamber of Trade.
"They are being very helpful in reviewing one or two comments made about our business plan.
"On the whole they have been very positive."
The council said it was currently looking for cheaper alternative to the current security arrangements.
A spokesman said the monthly cost is expected to fluctuate as security is extended to cover the daytime during 'riskier' periods, including school holidays.
Costs incurred during the first month of closure included £4,985 at the college's Limes site and £4,108 at Estoril.
The council said it has not yet calculated security costs for May and June.
Barlaston is outside the city boundaries but the college remained under city council control after it became a unitary authority in 1997.