Argyll and Bute Council has strongly criticised the approach adopted by the Argyll Rural Schools Network in response to the statutory consultation on the school estate review. The consultation which is seeking the views from all stakeholders on school merger proposals commenced on Monday 13th December and is part of a wider council budget consultation as it is forced to find savings of around £11.4m this year alone.
The Council has described the approach taken by the Argyll Rural Schools Network as negative and concentrating on trying to find fault in the process rather than focusing on developing positive suggestions that may assist in addressing the financial challenges faced by the Council. Councillor Ellen Morton, Spokesperson for Education commented,
“The tactics adopted by the Network have concentrated unsuccessfully in trying to find fault in the process through bombarding the council with a mammoth volume of enquiries designed to use up substantial staff time and resources. The challenges facing the council are real, the scale of which is likely to impact on every service area, and these challenges will not go away. Rather than this negative approach, we have received a number of positive approaches from communities who wish to discuss positive alternative options to address the issues we face. As we have throughout the process, we would encourage communities to participate fully in the consultation process and to bring forward suggestions that could be considered by the Council”.
Notes for Editors:
- Schools in Argyll and Bute deliver a very high standard of education.
- A significant proportion (59%) of our primary schools are however under half full and school rolls are projected to fall by a further 19% over the next 10 years.
- The costs of educating children in Argyll & Bute ranges from £3,000 per pupil per year to over £30,000.
- The council needs to reduce its overall budget of £277.6m. The cut in grant funding is advised an £11.4m (4.94%) for 2011/12 which means the Council will have to reduce its budget by around £15m after allowing for inflation etc. The recently issued settlement figures are significantly worse than anticipated (around £5.6m higher than estimated – almost double the average for Scotland).
- The education service accounts for 29% of the council’s budget - £80m.
- The education service needs to reduce its budget by £12m over the next three years. If the education budget is protected then bigger cuts will need to be made elsewhere.
- The education budget review is only one exercise within the Council’s wider budget review which will see every area of council expenditure subject to a service review over a 3 year period.
- Spreading available resources over too large an education estate is unsustainable in the current financial climate and results in impacts on all children
- The proposals brought forward ensure there is no detriment to the delivery of education and in many cases that there is clear educational benefits which will arise.
- The council has been clear and transparent about the methodology that has been used to generate the proposals
- We are very keen to hear from communities about any innovative proposals or suggestions they have to address the budget issues. We have received a couple of interesting approaches to date and these will be investigated further.