Scotland’s largest college shelled out almost £30,000 on “VIP restaurant services” and “poseur tables” during the hosting of events at COP26.
City of Glasgow College held several events during the major 2021 climate conference in the city, spending a total of £256,960.
The spend included £10,159 on “VIP restaurant services”; £61,803 on catering; and £18,522 on “conference chairs and poseur tables”.
There was also significant spending on seminars and event support (£35,146); audiovisual services (£54,971); marketing (£35,146) and security and staff (£30,607), according to a Freedom of Information request.
The figures come after senior management announced plans to push through with up to 100 staff redundancies as it looks to clear a £6m deficit.
The institution blamed that on the Scottish Government’s decision to U-turn on a pledge to deliver universities and colleges more than £46m.
Its budget has been cut in real terms.
The college has been asked to clarify what is meant by “VIP restaurant services”.
Figures, seen by STV News, show that £80,000 of the cash was given back to the college by partner organisations, including £24,148 from the International Chamber of Shipping Ltd; £22,349 from Maritime UK Ltd; and £18,902 from the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce.
The Asia Scotland Institute, IMO and Sterling Plan B energy solutions provided the rest.
The Educational Institute of Scotland’s Further Education Lecturers Association (EIS-FELA) claimed management had failed to provide evidence that the spending was worth it.
An EIS-FELA spokesperson said the local college branch had “continually attempted to secure sight of the evidence to back up the claims of management on a variety of financial issues”.
They said: “City of Glasgow College spent over £250,000 on COP26, including significant sums on promotional items, conference chairs and VIP restaurant services.
“Claims by the college’s management that they have recouped tens of thousands in investments, which have not been evidenced, still only represent a small inroad in breaking even on the investment they made.”
A spokesperson for City of Glasgow College said the further education institution was in a “much healthier state” in 2021 when it spent more than a quarter of a million pounds on the events.
It stressed that, because colleges cannot build up reserves, the spending on COP26 has no impact at all on its current finances.
But EIS-FELA said the figures “raised more questions than it answered” about the state of the college’s finances.
“In two weeks, the lecturing workforce at this college will take all-out strike action to save jobs and quality learning in the heart of Glasgow,” they said.
“Management must step back from the brink, get back to the negotiating table and consult properly on alternatives to compulsory redundancies. Something that they should have done months ago.”
A City of Glasgow College spokesperson said: “Back in 2021 when Glasgow hosted COP26, the college was in a much healthier financial position.
“As public sector bodies, colleges cannot build up reserves or retain surpluses, so our investment in holding official COP26 events is entirely unconnected to the purely external factors causing the college sector’s current financial challenges of real-term funding cuts, growing energy costs and spiralling inflation.”
The college said the COP26 events have already generated more than £100,000 for its students, with more events in the pipeline.
The spokesperson continued: “By hosting the International Maritime Hub at our Riverside campus, we positioned the college as a global leader in maritime skills and training during the largest global event ever held anywhere in the UK.
“Over 800 of our students directly benefited from COP projects working on industry placements/course projects and paid work.
“Many of these students are still working with those partners, so it was a positive, life-changing experience for them.
“The College won awards for the COP26 activity, including research project of the Year for Oxygen Depletion, which was showcased during COP26, has received multiple industry endorsements and has saved lives in the maritime sector.”