Education cuts continue in budget

Dumfries and Galloway Council Headquarters
Dumfries and Galloway Council Headquarters

ALL elected members of Dumfries and Galloway Council met in Dumfries yesterday morning to set the council budget for 2013/ 2014.

Council tax was frozen at current levels for a sixth consecutive year and the council also guarantees that teacher numbers in the region will be maintained in line with pupil numbers.

A council spokesman said the key decisions made at the meeting were: “Council tax rates will be frozen in Dumfries and Galloway. Council tax rates have not risen since 2007.

“Our Council continues to have the lowest council tax rate in mainland Scotland - approximately £100 under the Scottish average.

“The Council agreed to invest £2.2 Million in key priority areas.

“This budget will be used in key activities where we can develop our Council’s policies to deliver for the people in our region.

“Dumfries and Galloway Council needs to save £27 million over the next three years. This equates to £7.9 Million for 2013/14. Councillors agreed the savings proposals that will achieve this target. Details of these savings can be found on the council’s website.”

At the meeting, Council Leader, Ivor Hyslop said: “In the next financial year our Council must make savings of £7.2 million, having already made reductions of £29.3 million over the previous three years. To continue delivering balanced budgets we must save nearly as much again - £27 million over the coming three years.

“Our budget avoids compulsory redundancies, supports small businesses through a package of targeted measures and expands our graduate employment and apprenticeship schemes.

“We are continuing to support civic pride initiatives and this year make specific provision, in the run-up to the 2014 Commonwealth Games, to recognise and support sporting excellence.

“We are also introducing Community Commissioning Pilots and support for burial grounds maintenance.

“We also recognise the importance of reducing our council’s physical office estate and carbon emissions.”

But the Labour Group on Dumfries and Galloway Council accused the Tory and SNP coalition of being “out of touch” over plans to cut the council’s budget by more than needed to balance the budget, by slashing teacher numbers and adult education provision and failing to invest properly in road repairs.

Labour Group Leader Ronnie Nicholson said, “The proposals from the Tory and SNP coalition to press ahead with cuts in teachers, adult education and failing to invest properly in road repairs shows just how hopelessly out of touch they are with the priorities of local people. Every single Tory and SNP councilor will now need to face their communities and tell them that as a direct result of their decisions, class sizes in their local schools will increase, the plague of potholes in roads in their area will get worse and some of the most vulnerable people in our community will simply be thrown on the scrap heap as direct result of their vindictive decision to decimate the adult education budget by 25 per cent. No one disputes that as a result of cuts in funding from the UK and Scottish Government, the council has to make savings and that means tough choices. But no group has a monopoly of wisdom when it comes to how to make savings and local people expect councillors to work together.

“Whilst we welcome the decision of the coalition to adopt Labour’s proposal to consider investing in the Theatre Royal and to scrap music tuition fees, when we put any other alternatives to the council leader he arrogantly said he wasn’t interested in discussing them.”