Jobs go despite new deal cash

31st October 1997 at 00:00
Labour councils warn ministers of backlash over Chancellor's iron hand on school spending.

Teachers' jobs in Aberdeen will almost certainly be axed next year because of the city's deepening financial crisis, John Stodter, the director of education, has warned. The admission is the opening salvo in the so far low-key battle between Labour-run councils and the Government over the Chancellor's strict spending limits.

Councils are beginning to put figures against next year's education budgets and swallowing hard. More will be cut from education due to overall spending curbs than will come councils' way through ring-fenced injections of Government cash.

Elizabeth Maginnis, the local authorities' education spokeswoman, called the crisis an "irreconcilable fact", while parent leaders warn of "volcanic anger" in Edinburgh if budgets for books and materials are again held down.

Mr Stodter told Aberdeen's education committee that new money would amount to around Pounds 2 million extra. Yet teacher pay awards in line with inflation will cost Pounds 3.5 million and have to be absorbed within budget. At the same time, the council is facing its third year of 10 per cent cuts and a further reduction of Pounds 20 million. Over the next three years, Pounds 47 million will have to be trimmed from city spending.

Mr Stodter said: "With education having around half the budget, it is very difficult to see how it cannot take its share. It comes down to the number of teachers employed. We have cut everything we can cut and last year we got rid of 17 teachers in secondary and 30 in primary. The Government is promising to improve pupil-teacher ratios but we are having to make cuts."

Social work would have to find another Pounds 1 million to meet the costs of implementing the Children Act and it was proving more difficult to protect education. He was raising the issue early to avoid a later clash with central government.

John Kemp, Dundee's education convener, declined to offer figures but admitted the city was "going to have a horrendous time", even with the extra Government money. Like Glasgow, Dundee is losing transitional funding from the reform of local government.

Education was such a significant part of the budget, Mr Kemp said, that it was proving "practically impossible" to find other cuts. "We did reduce the number of teachers last year and I do not see how much further we can go," he said.

Mrs Maginnis said Edinburgh was facing a Pounds 25 million cut which would imply 10 per cent cuts across other departments if education was again to be safeguarded.

"I have no quarrel with what is going on. The Government is in fact demanding of local government a reprioritisation of funding. The Government is saying education is its top priority and we must fall into line," she said.

Colleagues were reluctant to concede ground and were strongly opposed to a more generous deal for education at the expense of other priorities. "I've already had a taste of the kind of difficulties that will come," she admitted.

Meanwhile ministers were demanding more nursery education, early intervention, class size reductions and new technology.

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