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Fudging the issue

WHATEVER the fine print may portend for the funding of the teachers'

settlement, The TES Scotland survey of councils' spending plans for the coming year represents uplifting news after years of unrelenting cuts. For schools at any rate, the expenditure trend is upward. But, for schools, do not necessarily read education. Non-statutory sectors such as community education and charges for services such as school meals still take their traditional hit. But, at the very least, the average picture appears to be one of stability although some councils like Glasgow still protest they are hard done by.

That brings us to the teachers' settlement. It was a fudge, as essentially political compromises always are. But the fudge is beginning to melt and the good taste it left in the mouth only a year ago has gone a little sour. Some councils are coping with the financial implications, at this stage, which disguises the fact that others are not and that there will be considerable pressures on budgets in future years. The local negotiations which will implement some aspects of the deal will inevitably throw up further pressures.

Council leaders did sign up to making their contribution to the settlement; it's simply that they have now discovered they need pound;43 million more than they can find. The resolution to this conflict does require heads to be banged together and the education committee of the Parliament, which can call on papers and witnesses, seems the ideal referee.

We would therefore support the call by the Tories' Brian Monteith for a review, although this year may be too early to allow MSPs to reach a meaningful conclusion when there is so much of the post-McCrone framework still to be thrashed out. We assume Jack McConnell, First Minister and architect of the deal, would not stand in the way of a close scrutiny of his handiwork.

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