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Eleventh hour budget changes could save teaching posts

Jaci Carolyn
Jaci Carolyn

Plans to cut secondary school staffing by 1% will be postponed for a year after a last minute change of heart by the Highland Council administration yesterday.

But the controversial proposals to slash £600,000 from winter gritting budgets are still on the table despite outrage from the opposition.

Negotiations between the two sides had been ongoing this week in the run-up to today’s crucial budget meeting.

When councillors will be asked to agree a four year budget, including £55million of cuts.

The ruling coalition – made up of SNP, LibDems and Labour – plan to increase the cost of burials, cremations and school meals.

However yesterday they revealed that they had accepted a number of alternative proposals from the opposition.

They include deferring a plan to start cutting secondary staffing by 1% – the equivalent of 15 full-time posts – until 2016/17.

Instead next year, a £500,000 saving will be taken from the community challenge fund, used to give money to community groups to carry out vital work normally done by the council.

A proposals to take £123,000 from the school catering budgets has also been scrapped, and the council ranger service will also be saved from the cuts.

But opposition proposals to cut revenue funding from the Carbon Clever initiative, remove pay enhancements for senior councillors and stop using external consultants, were rejected.

Budget leader Maxine Smith said that the administration had not agreed to the cuts to councillors’ enhanced wages because it was “just a drop in the ocean”.

Instead the Independents will today try to persuade colleagues to accept the rejected alternatives. They also wish to set a budget for 2015/16 only and scrap the council tax freeze.

The Independent opposition group said the winter maintenance cuts were “not appropriate for the Highlands”.

Councillor Jaci Douglas, joint leader of the Independents, said: “We are pleased that they have decided to accept our commonsense proposals.”

The group also wants the council to assess a number of measures that could potentially raise money for the local authority, including the sale of the Glenuqruhart Road headquarters and reviewing the provision of Gaelic education.

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