BLACKBURN College was under fire today after announcing job cuts and the closure of a 50-year-old trade union health and safety education centre.

Its principal Dr Fazal Dad said 11 posts would go in an efficiency review which also involves axing the TUC-accredited department.

The move was immediately condemned by Blackburn MP Kate Hollern, the University and College Union and Lancashire’s trades councils.

Dr Dad said: “We are living through challenging and unprecedented times but we also need to ensure the continued efficiency of college operations.

“We are confident that as a result of current proposed efficiencies no student or employer in the region will notice a change in the level of service they receive.

“We face some very difficult decisions over staffing but these reductions in staffing represent only a very small part of the overall workforce.

“The college will do all it can to prevent any compulsory redundancies.”

The 11 job losses - the fifth round of redundancies in four years - will come from a pool of 29 staff in the review and will take effect from the start of the new academic year in September.

The closure of the Trade Union/Health and Safety Education Centre, based in the college’s original Victoria building, has caused particular anger.

UCU regional official Martyn Moss said: “We find it incredible that the college is threatening staff with job losses.

“Blackburn College needs to recognise the commitments made by staff in dealing with the current crisis. Sacking staff at a time when there simply is not work available elsewhere is unnecessary and unfair.”

Mrs Hollern said: “‘I was shocked to learn of the plans to close the Trade Union Centre. It plays a vital role and health and safety is a more important issue than ever, particularly given that many will be asked to return to work over the coming months. We need people who are qualified and able to advise and if need be challenge employers.”

Blackburn and District Trade Union Council president Vikki Dugdale said: “The centre plays a key safety role for thousands of Lancashire trade union members.

“To announce its closure at a time when workers and employers urgently need to draw on the skills of workplace safety representatives is totally irresponsible. The college’s decision makes no sense.”

Denise Wilkins, Unison Blackburn with Darwen Local Government Branch secretary, said: “This is terrible news. We urge the college to reconsider.”