Education in Dundee : Budget speech

Laurie Bidwell, Labour spokesperson on Education in Dundee


25 February 2016

At the Dundee City Council Budget Meeting of Councillor Laurie Bidwell said:

"Convener, with regard to Education your budget is full of short term cuts with long term damage to education in our city.

In June you are closing a well regarded and very well led high school in Menzieshill which parents and carers fought to retain.

This will be happening at a time when the latest national population projections confirm a continuing and significant population growth in our city especially in the 0-15 age group.

In our primary Schools we continue to reduce capacity while there are proposals afoot to increase the nursery education and care entitlement. This would require considerable additional accommodation in our Primary and Nursery school buildings.

On Monday night I pointed out at the Education Committee that having 'Reserved Places' in four out of the soon to be eight secondary schools in the city is an indicator that our secondary schools are filling up and only Braeview, Craigie, St Paul's and Baldragon have some remaining capacity to cope with population growth in our city.

Combined, Convener, with your fire sale of Council properties and sites, this means that not only will we have pressure on school places in the future but no Council owned sites on which to build the new primary and secondary schools we will need.

In relation to the supply teacher budget, you have cut back on this and gamble that there will be no no increase in demand such as a flu epidemic or an increase in staff on maternity and paternity leave that will increase demand for supply teachers in the next year.

You are in my mind misleading people in Dundee when you claim this will make no difference.

In the current year schools have been unable to spend this budget because of the lack of supply staff caused largely by the national shortage of teachers.

If, as the Holyrood government tell us that they have at long last sorted out the lack of training places for teachers, we might have the potential supply teachers to employ next year but not the budget in our schools to pay for this.

Short term cuts and long term damage Convener.

We can also see that the direction of travel will be to accommodate the rising number of pupils by allowing classes in our schools to get larger. Apparently you are happy for Dundee to be mid-table at everything and not really ambitious to be outstanding.

Convener, some of your colleagues have congratulated you on your creative approach to finding your budget cuts.

But our constituents and our staff know that there are many dangers in your 'creative accounting'.

So Convener, I cannot support your budget today because you do not have the best interests of our city at heart.

Your short term cuts will inflict long term damage to our children in our schools in the City.

Not so much Getting it Right for Every Child, but Getting it Cheap for Every Child."

After the meeting, Laurie Bidwell said:

"It was very disappointing that the Finance Convener, Councillor Willie Sawers, would not even allow a discussion of the Labour motion at the budget meeting.

He just arbitrarily ruled it out of order, even though it had previously been agreed by the Council's Chief Legal Officer as a competent motion.

Councils must, by law, fix their budget for by mid March, so there was still time to put these savage budget cuts on hold and try, with a united political front, to negotiate a better deal for the city from the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, John Swinney.

I don't think any Councillor should dismiss an opportunity to try to negotiate a better deal for our city.

Dundee deserves better."