New Year jobs worry in council budget plan

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Pupil support assistants in Argyll and Bute’s schools again face an uncertain future after the council published details of savings options being considered to balance its budget.

The scrapping of 38 support assistant posts – a move which would save £209,000 in the 2021-22 financial year – is among the options in a report to be put before councillors this week.

Another savings option is the streamlining of the authority’s property estate over a three-year period – a move which, if councillors agree to it as part of the final budget next year, would put 20 jobs on the line.

A proposal to stage more meetings virtually – as has happened with all council and committee meetings since the UK went into full lockdown in March – would save £336,000 in travel expenses.

It’s the second year in a row that scrapping pupil support assistant jobs has been included among budget savings options – though the idea was dropped before councillors agreed the authority’s 2020-21 spending plans in February of this year.

Should the move to scrap the 38 pupil support posts go ahead, the full-time equivalent (FTE) of 14.3 jobs would be lost.

However, there is better news for school crossing patrollers, whose whose jobs have been under threat for the last two years as part of the council’s attempts to make savings, only to be saved on budget day.

This time round, though, the draft list of savings options for 2021-22 makes no mention of getting rid of school crossing patrollers’ jobs.

The proposals will be put before the council’s policy and resources committee at its meeting via Skype on Thursday (December 10).

The authority’s budget for the new financial year is due to be set on Thursday February 25, 2021.

A report by council executive director Kirsty Flanagan says that when previous savings and potential savings options are factored in, the projected budget gap falls from £6.3m to £4.3m.