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Minister urged to intervene over cuts

Education and Employment Secretary Gillian Shephard has been asked to investigate Birmingham City Council's decision to sack 42 school caretakers.

The council hopes to save up to Pounds 400,000 by cutting assistant caretakers' jobs in 21 dual-use schools, which become community and adult education centres outside school hours. The caretakers are employed by the schools and paid out of the education budget, but funded through a leisure service "re-charge".

Peter Hagan, secretary of Birmingham's Unison education branch, said: "Unison and the other unions involved have sent documentation to Gillian Shephard asking her to investigate because we believe the action by leisure services could lead to an illegal subsidy of recreation and community activities. "

Carl Rice, chair of leisure services, said: "In order to bridge the underfunding of leisure services by central government, we have reduced the amount allocated for community leisure centres. This does not require any subsidy from education budgets and we are discussing with schools how this can be accommodated by rearranging shift patterns for caretakers."

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