Education cuts loom as financial pressure grows

Education cuts are back on the agenda as the council looks to save nearly a million pounds in the next financial year – and this could include closing schools.

After a meeting of the education and families committee today, chairwoman Vaila Wishart said: “We have too many schools. We have to look at absolutely everything.”

The drastic measures are deemed necessary as the children’s services department braces itself for cuts of over £900,000 next financial year. Political leader Gary Robinson had strong words for the Scottish government over the way it funded education.

He said the government’s rigid policy on teacher ratios and class sizes were hindering Shetland’s education – one size did not fit all.

He said: “The clear message from [local authorities’ representative organisaiton] Cosla was that giving local authorities more freedom we’ll deliver better attainment.”

He said that the “multi-million pound” fund that the Scottish government had to increase attainment was being distributed “like sweeties” and Shetland would only get around £23,000 Cuts were being forced on Shetland, which was actually spending £125 for every £100 given by the Scottish government.

He said: “The Scottish government has a legal duty to ensure education if properly funded, we must put the message across.”

Head of children’s services Helen Budge said that in the past five years, £5 million had been taken out of children’s services, mainly in the schools service, plus £1.2 million from the closure of schools, making £6.2 million savings in total.

But in the next financial year £927,000 will have to be cut from children’s services, and Mrs Budge said: “It’s going to be very difficult, we had to make lots of cuts in the last five years and the next few years are going to be harder still.”

However, Mrs Budge said that she had not been asked to come up with a report on the school estate until 2017, which means no school closures will be considered until then.

Mrs Budge said the cuts would mean reductions on a range of services, including staffing in the library, in ASN departments, clerical staff in schools and central staff at Hayfield. This would be done by not replacing staff, rather than redundancies.

Additionally there would be cuts in the use of recreational buildings, fostering allowances, grass cutting and short breaks.

Vice-chairman of the education and families committee George Smith said he was “really concerned”, and it was “really serious” for schools. He said it was too early to say what it would mean, but the requirements of the Curriculum for Excellence would have to be met, and from those requirements, work out what resources were needed.

• Full story and reaction in Friday’s Shetland Times.


Add Your Comment
  • Linsey Nisbet

    • November 24th, 2015 10:23

    Come on. give education a break.
    There is an interesting juxtapositioning here…..the adjoining report suggests a spend of £900,000 would put the library back into its previous home. Here’s a suggestion. Leave it where it is and we have almost got the £100,000 needed for education. Sorted!

    • Robert Duncan

      • November 24th, 2015 11:56

      The library move is being proposed to deliver long term savings though…

  • Steven Jarmson

    • November 26th, 2015 17:20

    Would it not be better to have a top down review of the SIC, with every job evaluated and deleted if it is deemed surplus.
    Start with the Chief Execs office and work from there.
    Its an utter cheek to say “we need to save X amount of money” when you get paid a very good percentage of the saving you’re hoping to achieve!
    I’m sure if we sacked everyone at the Chief Execs office, plus each department head, we would save a fortune and no one would notice those people aren’t there anymore, well, except in finance, where they would notice all this money isn’t just getting flushed down the toilet!!

    • Michael Garriock

      • November 27th, 2015 15:21

      But we’ve had such reviews Steven. The problem with them though, IMHO, is that they were undertaken by existing staff, who by definition cannot possibly be wholly objective or impartial. Bluntly, their own jobs and those of their colleagues/friends/relatives will have automatic significantly enhanced protection, and those of people they’ve fallen out with will be the first for the chop, regrdless of what their position(s) are. Its basic human nature – Turkeys, for Christmas, they do not vote.

      The SIC has taken significant flack in times past for hiring “Consultants” for everything almost down to deciding what colour of toilet paper the Town Hall should use. Yet when its come to staffing/admin procedures reviews, where arguably fresh eyes and no axes to grind are vital, “in house” is all we’ve had.

      IMHO we need deprtment heads, the buck needs to stop somewhere, and we need the front line staff who actually hands-ons deliver the services to the public. What we don’t need so much of, and certainly can’t afford, are “managers” who do nothing but mange other “managers”, who in turn, on occasion appear to do nothing but mange other “managers” as well.

      • Steven Jarmson

        • November 27th, 2015 17:31

        I see your point on department heads Michael, the buck does need to stop somewhere, but that in itself beggars the question, why hasn’t the buck ever stopped?
        I can’t recall any dept head getting booted for not sorting out their department nor for the idiocy or incompetence of people under them, or any other thing they are “responsible” for.
        On this occasion, and a few other exceptions, there MUST be external auditors looking into the positions within the council, if I’m not mistaken, it is still Shetlands biggest employer.
        I know there are hundreds of VERY important jobs, important people at the SIC, but, yes, a manager for managing managers isn’t my idea of important, self important perhaps, but not “essential” in the bigger picture.
        We need to pretty much start again.
        Bring in some consultants with a remit to build a good positive, EFFICIENT structure for our council, not entirely in line with, but along the lines of other large organisations.
        We do have special circumstances to take into account, like a spread, low density population, but, we cant keep cutting essential services whilst we employ people to sit around looking on facebook all day!

      • Chris Johnston

        • November 27th, 2015 21:12

        Each Councilor’s duty to the voters is to oversee efficient administration. Part of this duty is to insure ineffective or counterproductive staff are removed. If a Councilor neglects this duty then the Councilor should be voted out of office as soon as possible. Are the next Council elections in 2017?
        I live in a US jurisdiction much more populous than Shetland, but with a similar problem that has festered for years. Government employees’ focus is on (1) more government jobs for family and friends, and (2) grabbing as much for themselves as they can without being sacked. Voters are rebelling, heads are rolling, and some former Councilors are in prison.

  • Duncan Simpson

    • November 28th, 2015 7:51

    Completely agree Michael. If Wir Shetland is a success then there could be a “clean slate” and, in my opinion, it would be beneficial to have an elected Department head for all the main ministries/services in the new Shetland Government. That way if there are any big mistakes we can vote them out. We would also be able to vote in someone from the fishing industry as the fisheries minister, crofter for the agricultural ministry etc.


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