Glasgow call for more cash to 'urgently address' teacher cuts

A Glasgow Labour motion which called for cuts to teacher numbers to be “urgently addressed” has been defeated by the SNP and Greens, who said “tough decisions” are needed due to a £107m funding gap.

They agreed to call on both the UK and Scottish governments to provide more funding as well as to explore opportunities for the council to generate more of its own income.

Cllr Jill Pidgeon, Labour’s education spokeswoman, presented a motion which voiced “deep concern” over the potential removal of 450 teaching positions over three years — as well as an ongoing review of the MCR Pathways mentoring scheme.

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It added the proposals would “undoubtedly have a detrimental effect on the children of the city, are “unacceptable and must be urgently addressed”.

However, a composite amendment was passed by SNP and Green councillors. It stated a £107m funding gap over the next three years meant “tough decisions need to be taken”.

They added there has been “inadequate” funding from both governments as well as pressures caused by “Labour’s equal pay scandal”.

Leanne McGuire, chair of Glasgow City Parents Group (GCPG), which has organised protests against the cuts, said it was “disappointing that the council couldn’t put party politics to the side and prioritise Glasgow’s children’s education”.

“It was also disappointing that the council leader did not list education as a priority discussion topic with the new First Minister,” she added. “We hope that over the coming months, parties can collaborate in joined-up thinking to ensure our children’s education is protected.”

Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Pidgeon said: “These cuts are not just numbers on a budget sheet. They represent a severe threat to the quality of education in our city and the futures of our children.”

She added they would lead to “increased pressures on our dedicated teachers… who are already stretched”.

“Education is an investment, not an expense,” Cllr Pidgeon said, adding a “well educated workforce” is essential to economic growth.

The SNP and Green amendment stated Labour’s proposed budget would have cut the equivalent to 650 teachers over three years. Cllr Pidgeon said Labour’s plans would have avoided the 172 teaching posts proposed this year.

The council will ask the Scottish Government for more revenue-raising powers for councils and look at current options to generate more income.

Cllr Christina Cannon, SNP, the city’s education convener, said: “Not one of us sitting in this room stands for election based on a desire to make significant budget savings, but setting a balanced budget is a legal duty and there is no way around that.

“The reality is that until Glasgow City Council and local government generally sees a significant change in our financial situation, these are choices the council will need to face year on year.”

She added the amendment set out actions the council could take to improve the financial situation and called for all councillors to work constructively.

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Cllr Ricky Bell, SNP, the city treasurer, said: “If you genuinely want to help, work out how we can make this a better situation for all of us. Bring constructive elements to the table that we can vote on.

“If we had a different way of making this budget balance, my door is open to anyone who has got better ideas to make this work. Standing outside with a placard, saying ‘this is all terrible’ is not helping anybody, because we have to balance the budget, that’s our legal requirement.”

The SNP/Green amendment stated the Scottish Government’s ability to fund services is “impacted by the block grant it receives from the UK Government”. They want a UK Government which “makes tax more progressive, and which invests significantly more in public services”.

A political oversight group will explore “sustainable and cost-effective ways to continue delivering a mentoring scheme for young people”. It will also look at generating more income, including a workplace parking levy, a road user charging scheme, a visitor levy and a review of discretionary powers held by the council over council tax and non-domestic rates.

The two parties also want devolution of “new powers such as a cruise ship levy, a carbon emissions land tax, a public health levy, an infrastructure levy, a building safety levy and further powers to set a second home surcharge on council tax”.