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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 January, 2004, 15:19 GMT
School budget cuts loom
Powys school pupils
Heads fear that class sizes will increase if the budget is cut
A 2% cut in budgets for council services has been agreed by a committee, despite an 11th-hour protest by head teachers who claim the move will lead to a drop in school standards and job losses.

Powys Council's scrutiny committee voted on Tuesday to accept a recommendation that the cuts be made across all council services.

Of the estimated 2.5m that the authority will save, 1.1m will come from the schools budget and around 25 head teachers from Powys schools attended the council meeting at Llandridnod Wells to protest against the cuts.

Powys Council said that despite receiving extra money from the Welsh Assembly Government this year, its outgoings have increased.

The scrutiny committee also agreed to a council tax rise of 9.5%, or 60 for each household.

It's a balance. There's only one pot of money
Gwilym Fychan, Powys Council

The recommendations for the council tax rise and the budget cut will now go before a vote of the full Powys Council before they are adopted.

Some head teachers in the county's 125 schools claim that the spending cut will lead to teachers being sacked, class sizes increasing and a fall in standards.

John Hopkins, Head Teacher of Gwernyfed High School, said the cuts would mean the loss of 50,000 from his school budget and lead to the sacking of two teachers.

"We are extremely concerned, both for our colleagues and for the young people we teach," he said.

"We only get one chance at education and their education is now seriously at risk."

Fellow head teacher, Ron Rowsell, of Llanfaes Primary School, added: "The greatest problem of all is the effect it will have on the education of the children.

"Parents are told all the time there is an increased budget in terms of education, yet in real terms, we are seeing a reduction."

Letter sent to Powys heads
A letter was sent to Powys parents urging them to protest

Last month, the heads took the unprecedented step of writing to 20,000 parents in the county, urging them to protest against the planned cuts.

The letter, from the Powys Primary and Secondary Head Teacher Associations, said: "(Powys council) are considering a budget which will result in a 2% cut in funding for education.

"This will lead to an inevitable decline in standards of achievement across all Powys schools.

"We ask you to contact your local assembly members and councillors and urge them to do everything possible to protect the education budget."

But Councillor Gwilym Fychan, said Powys was faced with little alternative but to make the cuts.

He said: "If we gave more money to education, then there would be less for the elderly and children's services.

"It's a balance. There's only one pot of money and we've got to provide a service within that."

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