The Scottish Government could slash millions of pounds from Aberdeen City Council’s budget after it failed to meet strict teacher targets.
Despite losing just 22 members of staff, the local authority is facing a crippling financial punishment from Edinburgh that could damage key services.
Finance Secretary John Swinney announced a £51million fund to help councils maintain their teacher numbers earlier this year – but promised to take the money back if they lost any members of staff.
Now the city council faces an anxious wait until the budget next week to find out exactly how much money it will lose.
The Scottish Government said both the actual number of teachers, as well as the teacher to pupil ratio, had to remain the same or improve year on year for a local authority to avoid being slapped with a fine.
Aberdeen City Council has maintained its year on year teacher to pupil ratio, but has lost 22 members of staff.
The number of teachers in Aberdeenshire rose by 12 and its teacher to pupil ratio improved, meaning it is out of the firing line.
The policy, which the Scottish Government insist is to ensure schools have “the right number of teachers”, has been criticised as “arbitrary” and “ill thought out”.
Aberdeen City Council has had well-documented difficulties with recruiting teachers, with education chief Angela Taylor describing the situation as “desperate”.
She said: “Difficulties in recruiting and retaining key workers to the public sector here in Aberdeen are well-documented and have been particularly acute due to the high cost of living which has been driven by the success of the oil and gas industry.
“We would now seek assurances from the Scottish Government that we will not be penalised for failing to meet targets so that we can continue to protect frontline services.”
Cosla, the umbrella body that represents Scotland’s 32 local authorities, has strongly criticised the policy.
A spokesman for the group said: “The simple truth is that no council has failed on education.
“What has failed, as it has in other areas of public service, is a crazy, simplistic ill thought through policy.
“Whatever way you dress it up not hitting an arbitrary figure on a random day cannot be the way forward for education in Scotland. We have to be better than that.
“It is becoming increasingly embarrassing that we continue to focus so hard on delivering a target which is so educationally irrelevant.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “No decisions on the funding provided to maintain teacher numbers will be taken before the budget statement next week.”