Cash-strapped councils 'could cut teachers'

Angry scenes at First Minister’s Questions over the impact of the government's planned budget on education

Tes Reporter

‘Cash-strapped councils could cut teacher numbers’

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has clashed with Nicola Sturgeon at First Minister's Questions over funding for councils in the Scottish government budget.

Mr Leonard said £230 million was being cut from council funding, leading to proposals from local authorities that include cutting teacher numbers, increasing class sizes and reducing the length of the school day.

The first minister denied that her government's tax-and-spending plans for the coming financial year, which MSPs are due to vote on this afternoon, would mean cuts to local authority cash.

Mr Leonard said the SNP-run Dundee City Council was planning to cut education resources in its budget, including the number of primary school teachers.

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He said that Clackmannanshire Council, also controlled by the party, planned to cut two-and a-half-hours from the school week and increase class sizes. Proposals to close two primary schools in order to balance the books were only scrapped following a campaign from parents, he added.

The risk of school budget cuts

Mr Leonard said: "Can the first minister explain why she stands up in this chamber claiming that education is her top priority, and then sets a budget that, out in the real world, means cuts – cuts to teachers and cuts to education?"

Ms Sturgeon replied: "The budget proposed, that Parliament will vote on this afternoon, increases local government budget day-to-day spending for local revenue services, including education, by £287.5 million, increases capital spending by £207.6 million and gives greater flexibility to raise revenue."

She added: "Richard Leonard is just wrong when he talks about cuts to the local government budget."

Ms Sturgeon criticised Mr Leonard's for not bringing forward costed alternative budget proposals, adding: "He's got no credibility in asking for more money if he won't say where that money is going to come from."

The budget vote in the Scottish Parliament is expected to pass with Green support for the minority SNP administration, and other opposition parties expected to vote against.

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