At the Council's Budget meeting on Thursday 10 February, the SNP group of fourteen Councillors, with the support of the Lord Provost, voted down the Labour amendment. We proposed to use savings we had identified, to restore more than a third of a million pounds to the Education budget.
Our proposals would have have made this a better budget by ensuring that:
no class lacks a supply teacher when a teacher is absent and when a school's budget for supply cover is exhausted;
curriculum for excellence developments will not be held back by reductions in the school's classroom expenses budget and
no pupil is denied access to an examination as a result of the cut in SQA examination fees for dual presentations because two examination certificates are better than the risk of none.
We believed that the best way to achieve our priorities was to pass these funds to the discretionary budgets of our head teachers so that they might have spent this on the most important priorities in their schools. In this way, teaching and learning in our schools would have been protected from the most damaging effects of the SNPs programmes of more than £4 million cuts.
Unfortunately, our school children and their schools will have to suffer because the SNP insisted on protecting the budget for two civic cars and not one as we proposed. They also voted to protect money for beer and sandwiches for hospitality. They also voted to retain an unallocated bus route development fund. Why we would want to invest more money from the council tax to boost the profits of the bus company in Dundee beats me. I think most council taxpayers in Dundee would think this would be throwing good money after bad given the recent botched reorganisation of bus routes in the city.
So as the dust settles after our prolonged budget meeting, why does our SNP led Council prefer to retain the £379,000 savings we had identified and not shore up the Education budget they had raided? Why are beer and sandwiches and civic cars on the council tax more important than the Education of our children?
Dundee nursery, primary and secondary schools deserve better.
As part of the SNP's budget cuts,the well used and much loved Broughty Ferry Library will be set to managed by an arms length body, a not for profit organisation, rather than directly by the Council. While this is claimed to save money, is it legal and is the proposed form of management the best option?
Our Broughty Ferry library was one of the incentives provided by the then City Council to entice the former Broughty Ferry Borough Council to throw in their lot with Dundee. The 1913 Act of Parliament that annexed Broughty Ferry to Dundee made it clear that Dundee Council would provide and maintain a library in Broughty Ferry within five years of the annexation. This was duly provided. I am querying now how how this commitment stands. Can the council claim that it meeting this historic obligation while passing it on to an arms length body not under the direct control of the council?
Whether or not it is legally feasible, and I am sure legal officers will report on this, I am not convinced that the proposed successor body is the best solution for our library in the Ferry. The SNP led council's solution is to pass our library on to a reconstituted and expanded Dundee Leisure Trust along with all the other libraries in Dundee and the museums. I think at the very least a separate trust should be considered for Museums and Libraries in the city.
Do swimming pools, gyms, libraries and museums hang together? I notice that leading private sector leisure companies, such as David Lloyd Leisure and Bannantine Leisure Clubs don't also run museums and libraries. Will the independent directors of the proposed company have broad enough interests to focus on libraries and community learning as well as aerobics, swimming and hockey?
I think Councillor Ken Guild, Leader of the Council, should think again about the wisdom of the changes to library management his administration is proposing for Broughty Ferry.
With confirmed pressure on school places a growing issue in the north of Broughty Ferry and especially in the catchment area of Barnhill Primary School, it makes sense for the council to revive its plans to refurbish and extend the school in a manner similar to the development of Forthill Primary School. This could not only expand the school from two to three form entry but also move the nursery out of the temporary huts where it is currently located.
In fact the council applied for and received outline planning consent for such a development in Spring 2002.
I think parents should expect that the council must now revive these plans as a matter of urgency. I shall be looking for this to be included in the revised capital plan which the council will be bringing forward soon.
Of course this will not provide an immediate solution to the lack of capacity this year but might reassure families living in the Barnhill Primary School catchment area that that the council have a satisfactory rather than makeshift longer term solution.