Political bonanza at teacher expense

Wherever there is a genuine increase in resources for education or any other good cause, it is welcome.

The first difficulty is to find out how much, if any, of the various figures trumpeted by the Government publicity machine represents a real increase. For its first two years in office, Labour has stuck to the previous Tory spending plans, imposing yet further cuts on top of the years of annual Tory cuts. So, for most budget areas, 1998-99 is the worst in modern times. Naturally Labour bases all its comparisons on it.

In real terms, allowing for inflation, Labour will spend less in Scotland in the last year of this promised bonanza than the Tories did in 1994-95.

There does seem to be much-needed real growth in higher and further education to make up for the underfunding of recent years. And some aspects of school and pre-school education will benefit from welcome increases.

Our main concerns are:

* The continuing cuts in non-priority areas of council spending some of which, like community education (cut by a third since council reorganisation), recreation and libraries, have an impact on school students.

* The way increased funding is to be tied to "tough output targets", which could become a bureaucratic nightmare.

* The extensive use of the New Labour version of the private finance initiative to fund capital projects.

Above all, one main pillar of the whole edifice is to keep down the pay of all public employees - no provision for pay increases except for "productivity".

A Labour political bonanza is to be funded by derisory wage increases for teachers, nurses and all other public employees - apart from the fat cats.

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