Councils criticise Scottish Government's school attainment funding plan

15 Aug 16

Scottish Government plans to fund a national scheme to improve educational attainment through the council tax will “destroy” the link between local taxation and services, local authorities have warned.

The warning by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities followed reports the Scottish Government’s £100m pledge to close the attainment gap in Scottish schools was to be funded through increases in the council tax for band E-H payers.

Cosla president David O’Neill said such a move would mean money raised in one community will be spent in another.

“There is a clear and honourable link between taxes raised from local householders being spent on local services and this has been a Scottish tradition for generations. The Scottish Government will destroy that link with their plans to use council tax money for a national policy,” he stated.

“All our evidence would suggest that generally people are happy to pay a little bit extra at the moment if what they are paying for benefits services in their local area. This smashes that link.”

In a statement released on Friday, O’Neill criticised what he called a “universal solution to a very targeted issue”. Councillors stand for election and should be held responsible for taxes raised and money spent in their area, he said.

“We have our own ideas of how to address the impact of poverty and its link to outcomes for children and young people. Local government has offered ideas on how jointly we can improve attainment and close the gap and we would urge the government to work with us.”

Stephanie Primrose, Cosla’s education spokeswoman, claimed that all of local government was against the plan.

“All of the experts that deliver education at the coal face cannot be wrong,” she added. “I appeal to Scottish Government to listen to our joint message and to join us at this table – as we want to support the aims of the government but are concerned that these proposals will not lead to the results we all want to achieve.”

Responding to Cosla, Scottish education secretary John Swinney told BBC Scotland he had no intention of taking control of education away from councils.

He added: “But I want to focus on closing the attainment gap, on making sure that our schools support young people to achieve their potential… one of the significant commitments we made in the election was to raise £100m out of reforming the council tax system in Scotland and investing that directly in schools.”

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