THE principal who twice brought Greenock"s college to the brink of strike action has finally quit his post.

Bill Wardle had been on long-term sick leave since October, just weeks before potential industrial action by both the EIS teaching union and Unison support staff.

Now acting principal Dr Graham Clark has announced Mr Wardle will "pursue other interests".

An email, leaked to the Tele, states: 'Professor William Wardle has taken the decision, for personal reasons, that the time is appropriate for him to leave his post as principal and chief executive of James Watt College. The board of management wishes him well for the future.' Allan Ferguson, EIS branch secretary, said a reported £5 million deficit will be Prof Wardle"s legacy and could lead to job losses.

He said: 'I would like to know if any deal has been struck. If he resigned, he should get nothing. People are not going to be sad to see Prof Wardle go, but we are anxious about the future.

'We"re told, "let"s look forward", except the deficit remains and the money will come out of us. We will work with Dr Clark or anyone else to move the college forward, but will not pay the price for poor governance and bad management.' A college spokesman confirmed there is a deficit but would not comment on the amount or whether any severance package was offered to Mr Wardle.