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Repent at leisure

Up to Shetland where the education department is living in interesting times. Readers will recall the council's controversial decision to hire outside consultants - Messrs McIntosh and Alexander, formerly of Strathclyde Region - to allow councillors to pass the buck and advise on how to cut educational spending (this, of course, is only one reading of the decision).

One way, presumably, not to cut education department spending is by grafting another service on to its budget. Shetland's wise councillors have done just that and director of education Jim Halcrow has joined that select but growing band of colleagues who have been given the leisure and recreation remit.

Halcrow may be thought incapable of coming up with the required savings for education, about which he knows a not inconsiderable amount, but he has been entrusted with the task of pruning his new acquisition, and there his knowledge is perhaps less rounded.

The only specific saving Halcrow will confirm for the L and R budget is the enforced leisure for former director John Nicolson, a parting of the ways which took place before education took over. The merger of the two departments did not, however, prevent councillors last week agreeing to appoint a leisure and recreation chairman.

One element of educational expenditure has been ring-fenced: the Pounds 10,000 fee for the two consultants, modest by old Strathclyde standards. Their remit is a beauty: "to produce a report identifying, on the basis of the current year's budget, the range of possible areas for initial policy consideration by the council along with an assessment of the likely implications in quality of service and expenditure terms".

Now that's what we call speaking our language.

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