Nothing and no one is safe from budget cuts

13th November 2009 at 00:00
Authorities face a 12 per cent reduction in funding over the next three years

Councils are targeting everything from campus cops to quality improvement officers in an increasingly desperate quest to deliver budget cuts.

One of the smallest councils, Moray, is under such pressure that it plans to chop the preparation of peeled free fruit for P1-2 pupils, replacing it with whole fruit which it says will save them pound;63,000.

The first proposals are beginning to emerge from authorities facing a 12 per cent reduction in funding over the next three years.

In the past week, the Auditor General, Robert Black, painted an equally bleak picture, warning that by 2013-14, the Scottish budget could be 7-13 per cent lower in real terms. The Government's current programme of 2 per cent annual "efficiency savings" would therefore not be enough, he warned.

Next year, Glasgow City Council faces cuts of at least pound;34m; East Lothian Council plans reductions of pound;3m; Moray Council aims to wipe pound;20m from its spending over the next four years, pound;5m of which it hopes to save next year; North Lanarkshire Council has announced its first pound;15m in savings to plug a pound;75m black hole.

Most savings are being sought by cuts to staffing, but some authorities are targeting other areas of provision too. Among the proposals, which have yet to be finalised:

- In North Lanarkshire, falling rolls will be used to close nurseries and primaries (pound;460,000) and to cut six secondary teaching posts (pound;166,000). The cleaning of schools will be reduced (pound;320,000), the quality development service budget reduced (pound;250,000), shared headships increased (pound;50,000) and "more focused" school meal choices introduced (pound;170,000). The council also plans to cut foreign language assistants (pound;123,000), campus cops (pound;97,000), 17 classroom assistants (pound;88,000), one psychologist (pound;70,000) and three additional support needs teaching posts (pound;80,000).

- East Lothian's "community consultation paper" suggests replacing nursery school teachers with nursery nurses (pound;120,000); increasing S1-2 maths and English class sizes from a maximum of 20 to 33 (pound;200,000); reducing secondary staffing (pound;400,000); cutting primary staffing (pound;400,000); increasing composite classes (pound;120,000); paring back on management posts in schools (pound;200,000); reducing management time in schools (pound;400,000); and reducing the replacement frequency of ICT in schools (pound;102,000).

- Moray is proposing to halve its childcare service budget, removing pound;70,000 in 2010-11, rising to pound;140,000 in 2011-12; cut primary schools' devolved budgets by pound;100,000 next year, rising to pound;400,000 by 2013-14; cut S1-2 class size budgets by pound;240,000 rising to pound;480,000; reduce secondaries' devolved budgets by pound;125,000 next year, rising to pound;500,000 by 2013-14; save on class contact by pound;120,000; scale back on secondaries' study support by 25 per cent (pound;30,000); and stop providing free bread and milk with school meals while reducing the marketing of school meals (pound;75,000).

EDUCATIONAL TRUSTS

East Lothian Council's proposal to hand schools over to "community educational trusts" was foreshadowed in April by Don Ledingham, its acting head of education and children's services.

Placing schools in educational trusts would give ownership back to communities, emulating the days of parish schools when Scotland led the world in education, he wrote in his TESS column. He added: "The shift in the perceived ownership would match what people feel about their school, rather than feeling removed from the real running of it because power is centralised elsewhere."

David Berry, leader of the SNP-run council, said the scheme would allow schools to make decisions based on local need, giving the example of cutting subsidised bus travel for pupils and hiring a teacher of Mandarin instead.

However, Mr Ledingham admitted that devolving the entire budget for running education to communities "throws up as many questions as it answers". Among these were: how would such schools relate to their authority?; how would they manage budgets that currently benefit from the economies of scale?; and how would the authority ensure that the needs of all children were being met?

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