Councils face reality of fixed spending

29th February 2008 at 00:00
Edinburgh City Council (Lib DemSNP) says its education, children and families budget is back under control after fixing its spending last week.

But schools must make savings of 1.5 per cent in their devolved budgets, slightly less than the 2 per cent they had initially feared. And cuts in central staffing will amount to pound;2.5 million.

The council's education department has been wrestling with a budget black hole of pound;18m, and has now received a revenue settlement of pound;353 million for 2008-09, an increase of 14 per cent on this year. The hike is inflated as it includes pay and price rises for the coming year.

Edinburgh has also earmarked an extra pound;500,000 for transporting special needs pupils to school, and more money is to be invested in English as an additional language to support Polish immigrants in particular. A commitment to spend pound;19m over three years to improve the schools' fabric will come from the capital, rather than revenue, budget.

Marilyne MacLaren, convener of education, children and families, says the council has been "able to cushion schools and frontline services from the worst cuts".

Schools in Stirling (LabLib Dem) will face a cut of 1.5 per cent in their devolved budgets, with the budget for children's services rising this year by 5 per cent to pound;80m.

The Western Isles (Ind) has had yet another tight settlement. Education and other services must make efficiency savings of 2 per cent, while facing a real-terms cut of around pound;1m. Its education budget for the coming year is pound;38m.

In Dumfries and Galloway (ConLib Dem minority), the education budget for 2008-09 will be pound;127m, a real-terms rise of 1.67 per cent. Teacher numbers will be cut in line with falling school rolls which, the council admits, will "reduce capacity" to cut class sizes. But other resources may be found when previously ring-fenced funds are allocated.

Argyll and Bute Council's (IndSNP) net spending on education will rise by 4.7 per cent to pound;109m. But there will still be efficiency savings of more than pound;2m, and increased charges will bring in just under pound;2m.

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