Campaigners have had a partial victory as Orkney Islands Council went back on its decision to cut £65,000 in the funding for Support for Learning Assistants.
You can listen to the whole debate of the Notice of Motion here at 8mins. 48secs.General Meeting of the Council – 1 May 2018 which was brought to the Full Council meeting by Councillor Clackson.
It was originally agreed by the whole council to approve the Budget for the year ahead but the public backlash when news of the cuts to services for children and young people with additional needs got out some councillors wanted to review the decision. That is when Councillor Clackson brought forward his Notice of Motion backed by several other councillors. Prior to the meeting around 30 protestors had gathered outside the council buildings.
The debate centred on a Joint Report by the Chief Executive and Executive Director of Education, Leisure and Housing.
The cost of providing the school-based Support for Learning Assistant resource over
the last two years, against a baseline budget of £824,000, has been:
• 2016 to 2017 – £1,202,000.
• 2017 to 2018 – £1,142,000.
The Executive Director of Education, Leisure and Housing, Mr Wilf Weir pointed out that the additional support for learning budget had an overspend for the last 6/7 years. Mr Weir had come to the council on 3 separate occasions for a pressure(growth) bid to be built in to address the overspend. On all 3 occasions this had been refused and it was therefore necessary to look at other means to address the overspend. There were constraints on what can be done to the education budget due to national strategies and that schools will be getting some funding directly from the Scottish Government. Given that Mr Weir felt that the desired savings can be made through an offer of voluntary severance to staff.
“The impact on the service of not making the £65,000 saving will not mean that there is no impact on the provision of Support for Learning Assistants as there remains an imperative to bring expenditure into line with agreed budget provision. A number of staff have expressed interest in voluntary severance or early retirement and, provided they accept final offers made to them, officers are optimistic that the workforce reduction required to bring the budget into line can be achieved through voluntary means. If the Education Service has to find the saving from an alternative area of the service budget, the impact may be on another high or very high risk area.”
Mr Weir reminded the councillors that the savings would still have to be made. He also assured them that the review would continue into the Additional Support for Learning service.
Leader of the Council James Stockan reminded the meeting that the funding would have been covered by contingency whilst the review was ongoing but this motion will now be limiting it to £65,000. He said that if the council had been able to raise the council tax above the level permitted by the Scottish Government then they would have ample funding but OIC is constrained in what it can do. He also felt that Islands Proofing which is part of the Islands Bill should be applied in future to education.
There were no amendments to the Motion and it was approved by the whole council.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame