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East Lothian pulls back on plan for shared services

A bold project to share education services across two local authorities has hit a stumbling block in its early stages.

The decision to appoint a joint head of education for East Lothian and Midlothian has been rescinded after new political rulers took over, following May's local elections.

East Lothian is now run by a coalition of Labour, Conservative and independents, having previously had the SNP and Liberal Democrats in control.

Labour had already made clear that it had concerns about sharing services, and the new administration decided last week to scrap plans for a joint head of education.

Council papers stated that the new administration wished to appoint a head of education solely for East Lothian, "in order to provide a period of stability for schools and education services, to support the development of Curriculum for Excellence and drive up educational attainment".

Local SNP leader Paul McLennan, whose party had backed a joint head of education while in power, told TESS he was concerned about efforts to share services being "diluted" and the council having "missed an opportunity".

He added that the SNP had received assurances from Labour that it was still committed to sharing services and had softened its opposition to the idea in general.

After the summer recess the SNP intends to seek clarification on the long- term role of Don Ledingham. East Lothian's director of education and children's services took up a new post earlier this year, covering East Lothian and Midlothian, but the contract for that joint position only runs until December.

Earlier this year Mr Ledingham explained the thinking behind sharing services across the two councils: "It's about building upon the best of the cultures in both authorities, but developing a single culture and way of doing things, and ethos."

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