Mixed reaction to council budget

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Following last week’s budget setting meeting in Dumfries the political parties in the region have been giving their reaction to the financial blueprint for the next year.

The Conservative / Liberal democrat administration hailed the budget a success that would deliver training and job opportunities. But the Labour Group hit out at the decision to cut teacher and classroom assistant numbers in schools.

The Tory leader of the council Ivor Hyslop said: “I am delighted with our Budget success – 100 per cent of our budget has been delivered.

“This Administration said from the outset that they would look at delivering for Dumfries and Galloway and we are delighted to have achieved this. We have delivered a £5m Modern Apprenticeship Scheme to assist with Youth Unemployment, developed a Graduate Employment Scheme which aims to support local graduates attain relevant work experience, Increased the additional spend on roads from £27K to over £3M and delivered an innovative High Street Face Lift Scheme which will enable our small towns and villages to continue to attract visitors to our region while also continuing to support the most vulnerable across the region.

“Make no mistake this Administration has a track record of promoting and delivering for our region and we have the interests of Dumfries and Galloway at heart. In this budget we have focused on the things that really matter, Youth Unemployment and Investment in our regions roads and services network.

In supporting the budget Liberal Democrat Councillor Sandra McDowall said: “It is never easy to please everybody across the region and even more difficult in the current economic climate. However having taken on the difficult task of being a minority Administration I am very pleased that for the fifth successive year our budget has met with the majority approval of the Members on this Council.”

“Much has been made of the reduction in teacher numbers but this is an operational matter and owing to a reduction in the number of school children it is important that we apply our policy formula evenly across the region. “

SNP Council Group Leader Rob Davidson added: “The overwhelming majority of the SNP’s published budget proposals were included in the budget proposals agreed today. The SNP Group drew up an ambitious set of proposals, focused on tackling youth unemployment, encouraging young people to set up their own businesses, as well as investing in early intervention measures for vulnerable children.

“The SNP also succeeded in increasing kinship care, fostering and adoption allowances in line with inflation and in increasing the school clothing grant, which is designed to assist families on the lowest incomes.

“The SNP proposals to increase the living wage was also successful as well as our programme to roll out use of video-conferencing technology to expand the curriculum on offer in our schools and increase choice for our children irrespective of their geographical location.

But Labour councillors expressed their disappointment with the decision to reduce teaching and classroom assistant jobs.

Labour spokesperson for Education on Dumfries and Galloway Council, Jeff Leaver, said: “Council officials were very unwilling to give the true consequences of the effect these cuts would have on staffing in our local schools and no wonder why. At the budget setting on Thursday it was made clear to all political groups that the savings in education would directly result in a loss of 39 FTE teaching and classroom assistant and support staff, which will undoubtedly be a lot more than 39 job losses, as many of these positions are on a part time basis.

“Instead of prioritising frontline services, the SNP opted to sit in the pockets of the Tories and slash these vital jobs, in favour of creating a job for a council official. I am utterly disgusted with the outcome.”