A budget based on political hatred has cost people their jobs - all 744 of them

Written by Scott Campbell. Scott Campbell
Published at 19:35 on 24 February 2013.
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I HAVE just read North Lanarkshire Council’s ‘savings package’. And, I have to say, it’s quite frightening.

Decided at a full meeting, in Motherwell, on Thursday 14th February, North Lanarkshire Council has cut 744 full-time equivalent jobs and closed two schools.

The full package of cuts totalled £62.395m for the next three years; leaving a revenue budget of £713.487m for this fiscal year.

The document gave me chills when I read it. Learning and Leisure Services has borne the brunt of what the council classes as ‘savings’ but what the rest of us call as ‘cuts’; a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, to quote Shakespeare.

The day before the council passed its savings package I posted up a blog talking about how Labour had signed its death certificate, Cumbernauld. Now, I feel they have condemned our authority’s educational services to death too.

The council’s ‘Way Ahead’ consultative document, dating back to October 2012, indicated that Learning and Leisure Services takes up 43% of the council’s budget; Housing and Social Work services are second, on 34%; and, Environmental Services comes third at 17% of total council spending.

In their ‘Approved savings package’ document the council declare that they’ve made £26.544m cuts to Learning and Leisure Services.

That cut equates to 42.5% of the overall savings package; this from the council whose slogan is ‘Service and People First’. Cuts equivalent to the department’s total cost to the local authority and equivalent to 384 full-time jobs and council Leader, Jim McCabe declared it, “a responsible budget which meets the needs of the people of North Lanarkshire.”

Glasgow City Council’s savings package, agreed on Thursday 7th February, totalled £54m – almost £8.4m less than North Lanarkshire Council’s savings.

Now, if Glasgow City Council – Scotland’s largest authority – can protect their Education and Social Work services in real terms then how come North Lanarkshire Council couldn’t? Why did our council take almost half of their ‘savings’ from one of their most important departments? More importantly, when they proposed to rationalise two secondary schools, Abronhill and Cumbernauld High Schools, to be specific, why didn’t they mention that they would be moving pupils from a younger B class build to older Cumbernauld High, classed as a C; why did they gloss over the HMIE report which said that the council hadn’t looked in depth at what they were proposing and, suggested that such an amalgamation would have a “detrimental” impact on the education of the students at both campuses?

Furthermore, why do to the council not recognise that promising a new build in three years requires a lot of planning; planning which would have to have started long ago, in order to see the new built opened for the projected 2016 deadline?

Moreover, why did Labour – a party who dedicated themselves at the 2012 local elections to education, announcing that they, “…believe all children deserve the best start in life” whip their members into line to push pupils into a quickly aging building whilst the set around it becomes a building site? Do these people have any common sense? No, is the short answer.

That’s just my anger over their Abronhill High School decision but what else has been announced, specifically, is there any positive news to come out of the council’s savings package?

The answer is no. Their savings package will decrease the council’s employment establishment by 5.5%; close two high schools, close school swimming pools, rationalisation of para-Legal posts, a review of a number of positions within a number of departments and more.

Now begins the political battle; where does the fault lie; Labour, SNP or the Westminster coalition? I’ll let you make up your own mind, but I certainly know what side my bread’s buttered on.