Perthshire teachers under threat as council attempts to trim £34 million

© DC Thomson
Perth and Kinross Council's revamped headquarters.

Dozens of teaching posts could be axed as council chiefs scramble to make savings of nearly £34 million over the next two years.

Perth and Kinross Council has revealed a range of money-saving options for its 2017-19 budget.

The proposals, which will go before councillors next week, include a range of swingeing cuts to educational and social care services.

Nearly 24 English and Maths teachers could be made redundant if plans to revert to maximum class sizes are approved.

In a report to councillors, officials have warned that the move would bring additional workload for teaching staff and “may impact on attainment and achievement of pupils”.

A further 1.2% reduction of all secondary school teaching staff is also proposed. This could save a further £204,000, but would lose 7.1 out of 591 full-time-equivalent posts.

It is also proposed that the council cuts back on using visiting specialists in primary schools, such as expressive arts and PE teachers. This would cut around 10 jobs and save £325,000, but would mean extra work for teachers.

Janitorial and cleaning staff employed by Tayside Contracts are also under threat. The council is looking at slashing its contract with the company – the council’s contracting arm – by £463,000. This would affect an unspecified number of non-council employees, according to papers.

Opening hours could also be cut at community campuses, saving £100,000.

And school lunches could go up from £2.10 to £2.70. Officials say this would save £250,000 but they expect around a quarter of families who currently pay for meals will opt out.

Council tax, which has remained frozen for the past few years, will generally rise by 3% – although people living in bands E-H could see rises of between 7.5% to 22.5% because of Scottish Government imposed multipliers.

Meanwhile, headteachers at primaries and secondary schools will be asked to make savings of more than £400,000 through cuts to learning materials and training. It will be up the heads how these savings are made.

The council has stressed that these are only options which will be considered at the next full council meeting on Wednesday.

A spokesman said: “The budget for Perth and Kinross Council will be set on February 22. It is ultimately for councillors to debate and consider the options and agree a final budget.”

Elsewhere, the number of permanent care home placements for older people could be cut by 94.

The council currently has 987 such beds on its books.

The budget report notes: “There is a risk that removing 94 places could cause delays to delivery of care home placement funding, increasing delayed discharges and the waits of those requiring a care home placement who are in the community.”

A redesign of the drug and alcohol service could affect around 19 jobs and save £225,000.

In October, councillors were warned that severe budget cuts would have to be made in the wake of the EU referendum. Finance chiefs said the council needed to revise its budget because of a “highly uncertain” economic future.

 Lifeline service could be axed

A lifeline service for some of the area’s most vulnerable people is under review.

Perth and Kinross Council is considering saving £100,000 with a shake-up of its community alarm control room.

Alarms worn by elderly and disabled residents are linked to a base with around 20 staff. When activated, team members can speak to the Telecare users and ensure they get the emergency support they need.

As part of the budget plans, proposed cutbacks could see the loss of nearly eight full-time-equivalent jobs.

One option being considered is transferring the control room to the private sector.

Councillors are warned: “Any reduction in quality of service will impact on Telecare users who are among the most vulnerable people in Perth and Kinross. The vast majority of people using the service are over 65 years.”

The report’s author adds: “Transferring the control room to private provision will almost certainly mean that the control room is located outside Perth and Kinross.

“Therefore, workers will not have local knowledge or a close working or a close working relationship with the response team. This may impact on the quality of response, especially in emergency situations.”

However, another option is to upgrade the service to a new digital set-up, making Perth one of only a handful of control rooms covering the whole of Scotland.

This move could actually make money for the local authority, with each new client – including thousands from outside the area – being charged £30 to sign-up. Around six-and-a-half full-time equivalent posts would be created.