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Row over school closure plans in Lanarkshire

4 December 09 01:45 GMT

Opposition councillors in North Lanarkshire have accused the local authority of pushing through school closures without proper consultation.

The council, which announced plans to shut four primaries last month, insisted no decision has been made.

Public meetings with parents have been taking place over the past fortnight.

But SNP councillors said the closure proposals were included in efficiency savings approved at a full council meeting last week.

The four schools facing the axe are Gartsherrie Primary in Coatbridge, Belvidere in Bellshill, St Francis of Assisi, Cumbernauld, and St Matthews in Wishaw.

Falling rolls and the poor state of some classrooms have been cited as the main reasons for the proposed closures.

North Lanarkshire council also has to make £75m worth of budget cuts over the next four years.

Councillors were asked to vote on a range of efficiency savings for the next financial year at the last full council meeting.

Potential savings of £460,000, made if the school closures go ahead, were included in a package of cuts totalling £15m.

The SNP group's education spokesman, Councillor Tom Johnston, said: "The Labour group have ridden roughshod over the current public consultation process.

"While the parents are being consulted, Labour councillors have already voted the cuts into next year's financial planning.

"Their contempt for parents, children and staff knows no bounds."

'Thorough consultation'

SNP councillors in North Lanarkshire have vowed to vote against the proposed closures when a final decision is made next year.

Murdo Maciver, head of educational resources, said: "No decision has been reached on the proposal to close these schools and we are currently carrying out a thorough consultation process.

"The outcome of this process will be decided by councillors at a future meeting. If it is decided not to close these schools then alternative savings will need to be found."

Mr Maciver also pointed out that the ongoing public consultation process was longer and more comprehensive than legally required, in order to ensure the views of parents and others were properly heard.

Parents at the closure-threatened schools have been campaigning to keep them open.

Last week children and parents from Gartsherrie Primary marched to the council's education department headquarters in Coatbridge to hand in more than 4,000 letters of objection.

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