Tag Archives: Labour

Council rivals unite to stop school closing

Evening Times
THREE Labour councillors have struck an alliance with SNP rivals in an attempt to overturn a decision by the city council on the closure of a special needs school in Glasgow.

The move sees three members of the ruling administration in the north of the city join forces with two Nationalists to use city council procedures to thwart the plans to integrate children at the Gadburn school into a nearby mainstream primary.

The Labour councillors, including Gerry Leonard, a major party figure in the Springburn area, and their SNP rivals are upset that the head of education, Cllr Jean McFadden, is alleged to have said only a Nationalist elected member raised an objection to the plans.

Mr Leonard and colleagues Gilbert Davidson and Catherine McMaster dispute this and have signed up to the SNP plan to have last month’s decision revisited.

They claim the education department has been too hasty in its plans to shut Gadburn and that most parents are fearful of the impact of integration with a mainstream primary on their children.

We have been talking to parents to get a workable plan
Instead, they have been championing a joint campus with Barmulloch Primary.

Under council rules, five elected members are required to sign a “call-in” notice to have the decision revisited.

It is understood this is the first time there has been a clear bipartisan strategy involving Labour members to undo an administration decision.

Councillor Grant Thoms, who instigated the call-in, said: “The education department is being too hasty at attempting to close Gadburn Special School.

“Councillors have been talking to parents to get a workable plan so the two schools could share the same building in Germiston but keep their separate identities.

“I have no doubt co-location is the way forward to give parents and pupils time to adjust to such a drastic change.

A council spokeswoman said: “A call-in allows scrutiny and enables local elected members to support their constituents.”

Teachers ‘must give more time’

Scots lead in teaching hours

Scottish teachers spend more time in the classroom than most of their counterparts across the developed world, according to new figures.

A survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found school staff here spend an average of 855 hours a year teaching, more than any other country apart from New Zealand, Mexico and the United States.

In addition, the report by the OECD also found classroom teachers in Scotland were the eighth best paid in the developed world, the same as last year.

Countries ahead of Scotland – where non-promoted teachers can earn up to £34,000 – are Luxembourg, Switzerland, Germany, Korea, Ireland, the Netherlands and Japan.

Teaching unions said the figures highlighted the long hours teachers were already working in the classroom at a time when some local authorities want them to do even more.

Last month, The Herald revealed the leader of Glasgow City Council wants teachers to work longer hours to stave off crippling budget cuts.

Gordon Matheson (Labour) said increasing the amount of time teachers spend teaching by 30 minutes a day – at the expense of preparation time – would save money and prevent cuts to frontline education services.

A few days later, Jenny Dawe (Lib Dem), the leader of Edinburgh City Council, spoke out in favour of the suggestion.

Teaching unions immediately criticised the proposals, which they said could diminish the quality of education while also meaning teachers needed to do even more at home.

Ronnie Smith, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said: “The amount of time that Scottish teachers spend actually teaching classes has come under misinformed attack in recent weeks.

“As this publication clearly shows, in no other country do teachers spend more of their working day teaching classes than in Scotland, yet Scotland continues to rank far lower in terms of the salaries paid to our teachers.

“In addition to the extremely high percentage of class contact time, Scottish teachers also rank very highly in terms of overall teaching hours. Scotland’s teachers continue to work some of the longest teaching hours in Europe, which is a credit to their professionalism and their desire to deliver the best outcomes for their pupils.”

However, Mr Matheson said: “I am well aware of the number of hours teachers in Glasgow spend in the classroom and how hard they work to achieve the best results for our children.

“However, the fact remains we are facing extremely difficult budget choices and I still believe that what I am requesting is reasonable. The fact that asking teachers to spend an additional 30 minutes in the classroom per day would save us £15million is not one I can ignore in the current economic climate, and that is why I have asked the Scottish Government to reopen the McCrone Agreement.”

The 2001 McCrone Agreement states that teachers work a 35-hour week but only 22.5 hours are spent teaching, with the rest protected time to allow for lesson preparation, marking and other administrative work.

Although no figures have been produced for Edinburgh, Glasgow said the change would save it £15m a year because fewer teachers would have to be employed.

Unions support joint industrial action over cuts

From the BBC

Brendan Barber said the cuts were a permanent rollback of public services

Union delegates have backed joint industrial action if “attacks” on jobs, pensions and public services go ahead.

The TUC‘s annual gathering backed a motion which included calls to build “a broad solidarity alliance of unions and communities under threat”.

TUC chief Brendan Barber warned that big cuts would make Britain a “dark, brutish and more frightening place”.

The PM’s spokesman said they wanted “partnership” with the unions to tackle the deficit.

The opening of the TUC’s 142nd congress – the first under a non-Labour government since 1996 – comes amid concern among unions about the speed and scope of the coalition’s programme to reduce the £155bn deficit.

Most Whitehall departments have been ordered to plan for savings of between 25% and 40% ahead of the comprehensive spending review of 20 October.

Delegates debated a motion calling for the TUC’s general council to “support and co-ordinate campaigning and joint union industrial action, nationally and locally, in opposition to attacks on jobs, pensions, pay or public services”.

It could lead to different unions calling strikes on the same days if the cuts are not scaled back, although BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson said trade union laws and union leaders’ desire to build a wide coalition against the cuts made a “winter of discontent” unlikely.

More and video at link

Labour and unions mustn’t be meek, says Harriet Harman

Police probe former council leader Steven Purcell over £50k grant

From the Daily Record

DRUG shame council boss Steven Purcell is being probed over alleged corruption.

It has been claimed the former Glasgow Council leader used undue influence to help friend and fellow councillor Ruth Black win a £50,000 contract.

An elite team of detectives are now investigating the claims, which it is understood follow a confidential tip-off this week to opposition SNP councillors.

The development is the first confirmed police involvement in the Purcell affair since his dramatic fall from grace last month.

The 37-year-old political high-flier suffered a breakdown and details of his cocaine use emerged.

The Record understand a confidential source supplied the SNP with potentially incriminating information over the award of the running of the city’s publicly funded lesbian and gay drop-in centre.

The Nats tipped off police, who put their Major Crimes and Terrorism Investigation Unit on the case.

Officers are said to be examining claims about links between Purcell and Black, who friends say regularly socialised together.

Glasgow City Council chief executive George Black and the council’s legal chief Ian Drummond have been made aware of the claims and ordered their own probe.

Ruth Black, 45, who defected to Labour from Tommy Sheridan’s Solidarity Party in 2007, is boss of a firm called The Castro Glasgow Ltd, who were competing to run the new lesbian and gay drop-in centre.

A new centre was needed because the old one, formerly headed by Ruth Black, crashed with debts of £300,000 in April 2009, six months after she quit as centre manager.

More at Daily Record

Labour still feeling the heat over schools vote

Published Date: 08 April 2010

THE storm that engulfed councillors following the vote on the future of schools shows no sign of abating.

Parents and political rivals have kept up the pressure on the ruling Labour group who followed the party whip in pushing through the closures of St Francis of Assisi Primary School and Cedar Road Nursery, along with schools in other parts of North Lanarkshire.

The most frequent accusation is that the council’s consultation was a sham.

Karen Eadie, chairwoman of a committee set up to fight for Francis’s said: “The consultation was hugely flawed.

“Our community loses, our parents lose and most importantly our children lose.”

Nationalist MSP Jamie Hepburn, whose council colleagues opposed the closures, said: “This is extremely disappointing news for the parents, pupils and campaigners who have worked so hardand, yet, have not received the support of the Labour councillors that are supposed to be representing them.

“A very strong case was put forward for keeping both locations open. Rather than develop the schools and nurseries affected, and invest in the education and future of Cumbernauld’s children, the Labour-run council opted for short-term savings.”

And Willie O’Neill, Scottish Socialist Party candidate in the General Election, also believes that the consultation was flawed.

“All of the responses to the council’s consultation said that St Francis should stay open, yet no one will be surprised that the council has decided to close it.

“This shows that the consultation was a sham, with an outcome that had been decided before it began. Parents presented a watertight case to keep the school, only to have it completely ignored by the council who have put cash before kids by voting to close the school,” he said.

“I hope parents maintain their opposition to closure and whatever course of action they pursue to defend their children’s education will have my full support.”

Mr O’Neill also claimed that this closure is the shape of things to come in public services.

“A massive campaign of defiance will be needed to force a rethink and the SSP is committed to do whatever we can to assist in building such a campaign.”

Cronyism – Follow up

Thanks go to Gerry Braiden at the Herald for taking the time sift through the bewilderingly complex details of these quangos.

As an exercise in Blairite civic reform the theory was simple: crack the city state of Glasgow and the rest would fall into line, domino style.

But rather than blaze the trail for Scotland, the creation of arm’s-length companies by the nation’s largest authority has raised more questions about accountability and transparency than provide solutions for weathering the economic crisis or, indeed, providing a model for 21st century public services.

Following revelations that former leader Steven Purcell, who resigned amid blackmail fears and admissions of alcohol and drug abuse, used his network of Aleos to buy the support of friends, colleagues and even some dissidents, it has now emerged that he and his councillor colleagues set their own salaries for sitting on their boards.

When setting up the Aleos, a group including elected members and department officials, would look at what councillors were receiving from sitting on outside bodies such as the SECC, health or fire boards and what the special responsibility allowances – since scrapped for being overused and untenable – were paying. From that they would arrive at a figure they believed best reflected the responsibilities being undertaken in the new Aleo. This would then be approved by the council’s head of finance.

More at heraldscotland

“The sheer weight of numbers means Labour always has the ultimate veto but there is a valid argument that all parties have been complicit.”

Brilliant! Absolutely magnificent!

Because all the parties are involved there’s less chance of it getting sorted, if at all. What a shower of ********!

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Revealed: Cronyism at heart of Purcell’s council

Click to download full view (pdf)

Steven Purcell’s elaborate system of political patronage is today revealed by The Herald, showing how friends, allies and even opposition councillors were paid tens of thousands of pounds to run the network of hived-off companies established by the disgraced former leader of Glasgow City Council.

The wages bill for the dozen or so arm’s-length bodies (Aleos) set up by Mr Purcell during his time as leader ran to almost £400,000 over what it would have cost to pay councillors had the services remained in-house.

It also reveals how some Labour “backwoodsmen” – councillors receiving no special responsibility allowances – were given positions on outside bodies and commanded five-figure sums on top of their basic salaries, while SNP councillors who have fiercely criticised the Aleos recently, have pocketed tens of thousands of pounds from the companies.

Many members of the authority now receive more from directorship fees each year than they do from their basic salaries of £16,234.

The Herald’s investigation comes as ministers order a Scotland-wide review of council spin-off companies amid concerns they are being used to bypass limits on payments to councillors and reward political cronies.

Finance Secretary John Swinney has asked the independent body that recommends councillor pay to investigate how spin-offs such as leisure trusts and arm’s-length companies are boosting salary levels.

Even members of the Labour administration have said that Aleos evolved into a secretive web of political patronage under Mr Purcell, who resigned last month citing “stress and exhaustion”, and has since admitted cocaine use.

More at heraldscotland

BBC iPlayer – Newsnight Scotland