REGIONAL AM Suzy Davies has accused Labour backbenchers in Bridgend of being afraid to speak out against the cabinet plans to cut school budgets by one per cent a year for the next four years.
At a heated full council meeting, the ruling Labour group voted to accept the cut although two cross-party committees recommended that it be scrapped and savings found elsewhere. It was carried by 29 votes to 16.
Headteachers had warned the council that the cut, which would take £3.4m out of education in the borough over four years, would result in every primary school losing at least one teacher and each comprehensive losing up to five.
Commenting after the meeting, Welsh Conservative AM Suzy Davies said: “It seems to me that there is a democratic deficit at the heart of Bridgend County Borough Council. Labour councillors have deliberately ignored the recommendations of two cross party committees to scrap the proposed cut of one per cent in school budgets every year for the next four years.
“Their decision will have huge ramifications for education in the borough and affect every schoolchild. Bridgend is already 21st out of 22 councils in Wales for spending on schools and, bearing in mind additional requirements coming from the Assembly, taking another £3.4m out of the schools budget will likely make it the worst local authority in Wales for education spending.
“This decision makes a mockery of the concept of scrutiny and exposes the lack of democratic accountability within this council. It’s councillors who represent the people and it is for cabinet to explain why they feel they can ignore the recommendations of the people’s representatives without any thorough explanation.
“What has happened to any meaningful role for backbench councillors? In Bridgend, they seem to have no influence on decisions made by a cabinet of a handful of Labour members, effectively chosen by the group’s leader.
“Following recent expulsions from the local party, Labour’s own backbenchers are too terrified to even squeak against the cabinet when they should be roaring to support school leaders.”