East Dunbartonshire schools take biggest hit in latest cost-slashing budget

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East Dunbartonshire councillors met last night to thrash out more than £5million in cuts.

It was the eighth successive budget meting where belts had to be tightened, with council leader Rhondda Geekie saying that delivering the administration’s plan gave her “no pleasure at all”.

A total of £3.5million of the £5.186million in required savings will be delivered through ‘organisational planning’ measures - making the council more efficient without cutting back on frontline services.

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A further £400,000 of cuts will be alleviated by delaying the transfer of money into the council’s reserve fund - cash set aside for emergencies - for a year.

The remaining £1.286million will be saved through a combination of service cuts and increased charges for existing services.

Schools will be hit hardest, with a saving of £329,000 being made by returning to the legislative maximum for class sizes - meaning p1-3 classes will now have as many as 25 pupils rather than the current 18.

There’s also a decrease in the classroom assistants-to-pupil ratio from 1:4 to 1:6, saving £276,000, while there will be reduced school assistant hours in secondary schools to save an extra £86,000.

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School charges will also be increased, with primary school meals up from £2 to £2.15 and secondary school meals up from £2.10 to £2.25, and a £10 hike for those learning musical instruments.

Outwith education, there will be a 66 per cent reduction in bedding plant areas, a 10 per cent cut in grass cutting services, an end to the council’s programme of winter hanging baskets and increased ‘care of garden; charge from £98.40 to £147.60.

Meanwhile burial service charges will be increased by 50 per cent - meaning the cost of burying a relative could be as high as £5,000 in certain circumstances.

And there will be concerns about a surge in fly tipping after it was agreed to introduce a £20 charge for special uplifts.

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The budget was passed, in spite of opposition from SNP and Independent councillor Jack Young, who supported an alternative budget from the SNP - which include scrapping a community hub in Bearsden and reducing grass cutting by 50 per cent.

There will be more on the budget in next week’s Herald.