Moray Council should ditch “draconian” cuts to vulnerable children with specialist needs or risk putting off new teachers from seeking work in the region.
That is the view of Moray MSP Richard Lochhead, following showdown talks with Moray Council chief executive Roddy Burns.
It was revealed earlier this month that the financially-challenged authority is planning to slash services to try and save £6.7 million, including cutting funds for school pupils with additional support needs.
The plans would see tailored support, behavioural support, educational psychology and home-school link workers cut, a move which would save the council £391,000. The final budget will be confirmed in February.
However, Mr Lochhead insisted the authority will receive a “better local government settlement than expected” and the plans should be reassessed.
He said: “It’s now time to drop some of the more draconian cuts proposed locally.
“The council’s handling of its budget process has so far been yet another public relations disaster and sends out the worst possible message to the existing workforce in our schools and aspiring teachers elsewhere in Scotland looking for schools to apply to.
“Does the administration not realise that cutting staff in our schools makes it even more difficult for the existing workforce to do their jobs properly and for our schools to attract new staff to fill vacancies?”
Council leader, George Alexander, accused Mr Lochhead of not grasping the seriousness of the authority’s financial problems, and insisted he will tell the truth and not become embroiled in political point scoring.
He said: “He clearly does not understand that, although the proposed budget is ‘much better than expected’ as he puts it, it still means a reduction in income for the council and it does very little to alleviate the threat of bankruptcy that hangs over the Moray Council.
“The Moray Council’s budget process has been far from a disaster and the general public have reacted positively to the consultation and many suggestions have been forthcoming.
He added: “Our children are not getting the education service they deserve because the service is spread over too many schools. Morale in our schools is indeed low and is likely to remain so until such time as councillors take their responsibilities seriously and change the way in which the service is delivered.”