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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 March, 2005, 16:56 GMT
More resign over education cuts
At least 11 board members have resigned in protest
At least 11 board members have resigned in protest
More protest resignations over cuts in Northern Ireland education services have taken place.

At least 11 board members have resigned in protest from the Western Education and Library Board.

It has voted narrowly to approve budget cuts of 5.7m affecting special needs children, road safety, school library books and maintenance.

More than 20 members of the five Northern Ireland boards have resigned their posts in protest at cuts.

On Wednesday, councillors from Sinn Fein, the SDLP and DUP walked out of an emergency Western Education Board meeting in Omagh in protest at the decision.

Harry Mullan of the Western Education Board said it was one of the most difficult meetings he had ever attended.

"There was a mood of despair, a mood of disappointment, a mood of sadness," he said.

"We were in a position that there was basically no alternative but to move and realign our service provision in accordance with the funding made available to us."

Ulster Unionist board member Derek Hussey said: "We are in the mouth of Easter - Barry Gardiner is crucifying education services."

Three other boards have already agreed to make savings which they say will damage children's education.

Eight councillors resigned in protest after the Belfast Education Board voted for a 7m package of cuts.

I am pleased to note that four of the five education and library boards have agreed a budget, and I look forward to examining the details in the next few days
Barry Gardiner
Education minister

The board also passed a no confidence motion in the Northern Ireland education minister.

Members cited the "the impossible financial cuts imposed on the education system and the minister's belligerent manner toward the board".

Tom Hartley of Sinn Fein, who quit the Belfast board along with three party colleagues, three SDLP members, and David Brown of the UUP, said he anticipated further cuts in the next two years.

Job fears

Education Minister Barry Gardiner said: "The fact is that every public body would like more resources - but we all have to manage within the budgets set for us.

"I am pleased to note that four of the five educatiopn and library boards have agreed a budget, and I look forward to examining the details in the next few days."

Trade unions have warned jobs could be lost because of the cuts.

Unison regional secretary Patricia McKeown confirmed it is to ballot its members on strike action.

Board voted narrowly to approve budget cuts of 5.7m
Board voted narrowly to approve budget cuts of 5.7m

Meanwhile, the North Eastern Board voted to close Antrim's Massereene College despite a final attempt by parents and governors to apply for integrated status.

Adrian Watson of the Ulster Unionist Party and Arthur Templeton subsequently quit their posts on the board.

On Wednesday, SDLP councillor Joe McBride announced he had also resigned from the North Eastern Board.

The North Eastern Board has already voted to push through cuts to school services "under severe duress", as it faces a 6m shortfall in money from the department next year.

The South Eastern Education and Library Board has also voted through a package of measures "under duress" to save millions of pounds.

They include major cutbacks in services to special needs children as well as cuts in transport, classroom assistants and support for teachers.




SEE ALSO:
Board cuts lead to resignations
22 Mar 05 |  Northern Ireland
Members 'should resign' over cuts
22 Mar 05 |  Northern Ireland
Board backs cuts 'under duress'
19 Mar 05 |  Northern Ireland
School closure decision delayed
22 Feb 05 |  Northern Ireland
School's closure to be discussed
16 Feb 05 |  Northern Ireland


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