Finger of blame for education ‘shambles’ pointed at Falkirk Council leader

editorial image

Opposition members stated the blame for last month’s school job cut letters “shambles” lies with the leader of Falkirk Council.

At a full council meeting yesterday (Wednesday) Labour group leader Dennis Goldie also demanded Cecil Meiklejohn apologise to all school staff, parents and pupils for the anxiety caused by the 18,000 letters – which detailed potential teacher job losses in local schools.

As members discussed the revenue budget medium term financial plan referred from last week’s executive, Councillor Goldie put forward an amendment to the item.

It stated: “Council notes the unprecedented levels of concern and anxiety among pupils, parents and school staff across the district caused by the proposals for cuts in school budgets.

“Council accepts the ultimate political responsibility for the actions of the council lies with the leader of the council Cecil Meiklejohn.”

The amendment, which still had to be voted on as The Falkirk Herald went to press, ended with a demand for Councillor Meiklejohn to apologise.

Referring to last week’s executive meeting, in which director of education Robert Naylor admitted no administration members had seen the letters before they were sent out, Councillor Goldie said the education director had been “thrown under a bus”.

He added: “The director of education was carrying out instruction of the education executive. Therefore, who did make the mistake? The person responsible is obvious. We get Cecil’s vision for the High Street, for everything under the sun, but when something goes wrong then Cecil’s not got vision for that.

“The responsibility lies with the leader of the council and if she didn’t see those letters then she has slipped up – 18,000 letters going out and the leader of the council has not seen them until it blows up in her face.

“The director of children’s services was wrongly targeted for having responsibility for this decision and that is not acceptable in any way.”

Councillor Meiklejohn repeated her words from last week’s executive, stating the administration was still committed to maintaining the national teacher to pupil ratio, committed to having no compulsory redundancies and the savings proposals were just that, proposals – nothing has been decided as yet because the administration does not know the level of grant settlement it will be getting from the Scottish Government.

During a heated debate, members were quick to defend their under-fire council leader.

Councillor Adanna McCue said: “Making attacks on individuals, name calling and blaming is not helpful. I’ve seen better respect and better behaviour from three-year-olds than I have seen in this chamber.”

Councillor David Alexander called the statement a “personal attack” on the council leader and ripped up the paper copy of the amendment, while Councillor Robert Spears said it was an attack on a woman who “was just doing her job” .