Education

26.02.19

Ex-council leader resigns over ‘draconian’ plans to cut teaching staff in face of £16m budget gap

The former leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council has resigned from the Labour group over its “draconian” plans to cut teaching staff numbers in the region.

Ronnie Nicholson said the SNP-Labour council’s plan to cut at least 40 teaching posts was a “step too far,” stating: “I simply cannot be involved in a decision that will damage ours kids’ education locally, therefore regrettably I had no choice but to resign from the Labour Group.”

Labour Group leader Elaine Murray said the local authority had to make some “extremely hard choices” in the face of a £16m funding gap, and the council will meet on Thursday to set its financial budget.

Nicholson, who stepped down as the Labour leader for Dumfries and Galloway in May 2017, said: “This was an incredibly difficult decision for me to make but in all conscience I could not support a proposed SNP Labour budget which made such draconian cuts in teachers.

The councillor said funding reductions from the Scottish Government had left the authority with an “impossible task,” but the decision to axe at least 40 teaching posts “is a cut too far and one that is avoidable.”

“The budget proposes over £500,000 of spending on new proposals such as a Community Initiative Fund and the council also propose to increase the reserves held.

“I wanted to suggest that we use this money to retain teaching posts instead but I was prevented from even making this suggestion at the last Labour Group meeting before the budget.”

Elaine Murray said she “deeply regretted” the resignation, and paid tribute to his dedication and experience.

After making £96m of cuts since 2010-11, she said the council faces a further funding gap of £16m this year and “the coalition administration has had to make some extremely hard choices in order to produce a fiscally competent budget, choices we have made with heavy hearts.”

“Any reduction in posts within the council will be made through early retirement and voluntary severance, redeployment and the elimination of vacancies. We will continue to adhere to our policy of no compulsory redundancies.”

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