Social Work Spending Sparks Fear of School Closures

Fears have been raised that more primary schools may have to close than was previously planned after Edinburgh’s new children and families department increased pressure on budgets. Last year City of Edinburgh Council warned that as many as a quarter of the city’s 94 primaries might close because of falling rolls. The children and families department replaced the ailing social work unit 18 months ago after the death of Caleb Ness.

An independent report on the killing of the 11-month-old by his father in 2001 found failings at almost every level in the handling of the case. In response to recommendations in the report, an additional 20 social workers have been taken on.

A spokesman said: “There has also been a highly successful foster care campaign.”

A council report suggested plugging a £3m budget gap with money from the schools budget, but Donald Anderson, the council leader, commented: “Any reduction in schools budgets would be deeply damaging so we will not accept any cut here.”

Iain Whyte, the Tory group leader, said: “There are many ways in which the children and families department’s budget could be brought back into line. It looks like Labour are trying to scaremonger people as we approach an election year.”

Liz O’Malley, Edinburgh’s LibDem education spokeswoman, said: “Anything that is done must be done on a city-wide basis, so individual schools and parents do not feel they are being specifically targeted.”

But Maureen Child, finance convener, said serious challenges lay ahead. ” There will be challenges to be met in delivering further large efficiency savings to balance the budget and deliver the service,” she said.