Under-pressure Falkirk Council’s suggestion to reduce school hours to save cash has been met with anger and disbelief from parents.
The option was first revealed in November last year in a report on the revenue budget framework for 2015-18 and also in the recent online budget consultation on the council’s website.
According to the November report, achieving aggregate savings of around £40 million over the next three years requires “significant contraction” in service delivery and reduction in staffing.
However, it was the idea to reduce primary school teaching hours from 25 to 22.5 hours per week to save £595,000 over three years which drew most criticism.
A concerned parent said: “The council is saying swimming pools are more important than our children’s education, agreeing to pay £550,000 to upgrade the wave machine in the Mariner Centre and the flumes in Grangemouth.
“Now they are looking to save £595,000 over three years by cutting 10 per cent of primary contact time, reducing the school week by half a day.
“This seems incredible when they are trying to encourage people to work.”
The council stated this week the suggestion was just that – one option which had not yet been decided upon and as such it could give no statement on the matter, which was still under consideration.
The online consultation stated: “Senior council managers have identified areas where savings could be made and we are looking for your views.
“No decisions have been taken yet and feedback from the public and staff will be taken into account when councillors set the final budget in February.”
At last week’s meeting of the council’s executive committee, members confirmed the findings of the online budget consultation would be looked at before any decisions were taken.
However, some users reportedly found the online consultation, which is now at an end, difficult to access and were unable to get their views across.
Parents have drawn up a petition against the proposal to cut hours at www.parentsoffalkirk.com in the hope the council will scrap the cash-saving idea.
In a letter to council chief executive Mary Pitcaithly and acting directors of education services Gary Greenhorn and Anne Pearson, angry parents implored them not to implement the proposal.
They said: “This is a direct cut to the quality of the children of Falkirk’s education, and will disadvantage our children in their future secondary education, higher education, their future careers and general quality of life.
“If implemented, this decision will be irreversible, and will impact generations to come. While there may be budgetary pressures on the council as a whole, Falkirk Council decides where to allocate that budget.
“The council should not implement cuts to frontline services. Drive efficiency savings, rather than direct cuts to services. Identify revenue creation opportunities which will enhance profitability without reducing services.
“I believe the savings generated by the implementation of this proposal are massively disproportional to the negative impact that it would have to adults and chldren.”