The leader of Perth and Kinross Council said he is being forced to make nearly £500,000 worth of cuts to education services, after controversial plans to serve up frozen school meals were rejected.
Opposition groups successfully blocked proposals to use a centralised industrial kitchen in Dundee to cook and freeze meals to be delivered to schools across the region.
SNP group leader Dave Doogan, who raised a 3,000-signature petition against the scheme, said the council should instead modernise and invest in its local school kitchens.
But council leader Murray Lyle said the decision – following a 21 to 16 vote at Wednesday’s full council meeting – had left a £426,000 hole in the budget still to be addressed.
“We will have to find that saving elsewhere,” the Conservative councillor said.
“To put it in perspective, this is the equivalent of about 10 or 12 teachers.
“Tayside Contracts came forward with this solution to deliver a saving £426,000. From my perspective, that saving was very attractive and that’s why I chose to go with it.
“It did involve the loss of nine jobs, but we were going to create a lot of jobs for the early learning services, so as far as I was concerned these jobs would simply transfer across.
“I can understand the passion from the SNP and others, not to centralise things in Dundee.
“But my challenge now is finding savings of £426,000 from the budget going forward. And that’s not going to be easy, given the financial position we are in.”
Perth and Kinross councillors’ decision has not thawed Dundee City Council’s enthusiasm for the cost-cutting project.
The local authority said it will look at ways of implementing the plans, regardless of Perth’s position.
Angus Council was more guarded, with a spokesman only confirming it will be “considering the implications” of last week’s vote.
Earlier this month, it emerged Perth and Kinross Council is facing an overspend of £3.4 million.
Lifelong learning convener Caroline Shiers said: “Obviously we have this large hole in our budget now that needs to be addressed with some careful consideration and discussion.
“It does amount to a significant number of teachers, but I don’t want to even go there.
“However, I want to move on from this and look at how we can go forward now in a positive way.”