Councils refuse to share costs

4th April 2008 at 01:00
The Schools Minister has been accused of sending "a begging letter" to Aberdeen City's neighbouring councils, asking them to bail it out of a budget crisis which has put teachers' jobs at risk, writes Emma Seith

Maureen Watt, Minister for Schools and Skills, has come under fire from Labour following a letter she wrote to Moray and Aberdeenshire councils as a constitutency MSP. In it, she questions whether the burden of funding should fall to Aberdeen alone and asks them to help fund "truly regional facilities" facing "budgetary pressures" and "cutbacks" in Aberdeen.

Aberdeen City, which is aiming to reduce its overall budget by pound;27 million, has been forced to close the Bon Accord Baths and mothball the Linx ice-rink. An estimated 80 teachers' jobs are also under threat, and teachers and parents have warned of cuts to curriculum options and increases in class sizes.

Rhona Brankin, Labour's education spokeswoman, told the Labour Party conference in Aviemore: "Imagine it. 'Dear Moray Council, we in the SNP government have made a bit of a guddle of Aberdeen's budget. It looks like Aberdeen will have to sack some teachers. But we have had a brilliant idea. Perhaps you could sack some teachers and send the money to Aberdeen.'"

Ms Watt, MSP for North East Scotland, says in her letter to the chief executive of Moray Council, that she has been contacted by constituents living outside Aberdeen who are concerned about the closure of facilities in the city.

However, both Moray and Aberdeenshire councils have rejected the invitation to share costs. Aberdeenshire Council's chief executive, Alan Campbell, claimed the real problem lay "not with the cross-boundary use of facilities, but with the present funding structure for councils".

He said: "Under the current grant distribution arrangements, Aberdeenshire Council receives 13 per cent less grant per head of population, and Aberdeen City fares even worse."

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