Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Fighting Plaid cuts in Llanelli schools

Column published in Llanelli Herald on 10 February 2017

Over the last few months I’ve visited many of the schools in the Llanelli constituency. Each of them are struggling with their budgets.

Last year cuts of £3.4 million by the Plaid-led council in Carmarthenshire stretched the budgets of Llanelli school to breaking point. Despite the Welsh Government protecting the money sent to County Hall there were job losses in Bigyn, Brynteg, Dafen, Brynsierfel, Dafen, and Ysgol y Felin Primary schools.

This year local Heads were told to prepare for further cuts of 5%. I revealed these cuts in this column but Plaid Councillors wrote to the local papers to say I was fibbing.

Meanwhile the Director of Education, Gareth Morgans, wrote to Heads to say, “There is a proposal to reduce school budgets. The details of the proposals being considered by the County Council”.

Local Heads were told that they’d need to make up to 135 members of staff redundant to meet the £3.2 Million shortfall.

Still Plaid accused me of misleading.

The Heads I’ve been speaking to were in despair. The Council leadership told the public all would be well, while their officials pushed them to draw up redundancy plans.

I pleaded with Plaid to cancel the cuts after the Welsh Labour Government announced that there would be no cuts in Carmarthenshire’s overall budget next year.

With an eye on May’s Council elections the Council published their final spending plans this week.  Plaid’s press release announced "SCAREMONGERING ON EDUCATION CUTS PROVED WRONG”.

They announced they’ve found an extra £2.5m and would be giving £1.76m of it to schools. Plaid Council Leader Cllr Emlyn Dole said in the press release “We were aware of public fears due to unfounded allegations by some leading Labour politicians, who should have known better,” said.

My ‘claims’, they said, had caused ‘unnecessary alarm’.  

Well, by revealing what the Council were planning I certainly caused alarm, but it certainly wasn’t unnecessary. The pressure has led to a change in policy that will reduce the cuts schools will have to make.

But there will still be cuts. They aren’t passing on all the money they’ve found to schools. Heads will have to absorb teacher pay rises and the cost of inflation, which means they’ll have less money than this year to run their schools. There still may be job losses - on top of the cuts they had to endure last year.

And all Plaid can do is blame me for ‘scaremongering’.

This game-playing must stop, and we should put the education of our children first.

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