Cash-strapped council could be forced to shed jobs and schools

Schools could be under threat
Schools could be under threat

SAVAGE cuts could mean the closure of schools and the axe for 1,000 jobs,

Massive cutbacks are planned across public services at North Lanarkshire Council.

The local authority has been tasked with slashing their budget by £73.3million between 2013 and 2016.

In response, councillors have compiled a series of cost-cutting options which would save as much as £105.7m.

If all the savings options in the £105.7m package were to be implemented there would be a reduction of 1,387 full-time equivalent posts.

The final total will be less, given the council’s need to save £73.3m – but it still means around 1,000 full-time posts could be lost.

The lion’s share of the potential £105.7m savings have been identified in learning and leisure.

It is likely schools could close and head teachers might be asked to cover more than one school.

North Lanarkshire Council will float their cut options during a public consultation starting next week, subject to approval from their policy and resources committee.

The council’s chief executive, Gavin Whitefield, said: “I recognise that many of the options are extremely unpalatable, but we have a duty to balance our budget.

“When the consultation period begins at the start of October I would urge everyone to have their say on these options.

“The results will inform the decisions we will take in December to determine a savings package which best protects jobs and services.”

Tom Clarke, MP for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill, has called for the respective authorities at Westminster and Holyrood to get involved.

He said: “I deeply regret that the workforce within North Lanarkshire Council has been dealt this severe and massive blow of potential job losses.

“We need to be clear that the responsibility for such draconian measures is not the fault of the council as they are obliged to live within the financial constraints laid down by the Scottish Government and Westminster.

“I am urging the Prime Minister and the First Minister to hold urgent discussions that will lead to a much better financial settlement for North Lanarkshire.

“I know for a fact the council will do everything they can to reduce the number of redundancies, but this can only be achieved if there are more financial resources put at their disposal.”

While the full-scale options package would bring job losses to areas such as street cleaning, health and home care, the worst effects would be felt in education.

Contained in the council’s options package are plans to merge eight schools into a total of four by 2014.

Other proposals include a review of school meal prices and free school transport; the introduction of fees for the P5 swimming scheme; and the scrapping of classroom and additional support needs assistants in favour of a school support worker post.

Visit www.northlanarkshire.gov.uk

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