Glasgow & West Scotland

Glasgow and South Lanarkshire to take teacher funding

Image caption The number of teachers in Scotland has fallen in recent years to about 51,000

Two of Scotland's largest Labour councils have confirmed they will accept money from the government to maintain the number of teachers.

Glasgow and South Lanarkshire councils took their decisions when they set their budget for the coming year.

The government is offering councils across the country money to maintain teacher numbers but says they will lose cash if the number drops.

This has led to a major row between many councils and the government.

Local authorities have to tell the government by Friday if they intend to take the cash. It is expected that most will even though some non-SNP councils are very unhappy about it.

Typically, each council gets around 80p of each pound it spends from the government.

The government is offering councils across Scotland almost £11bn for the coming year.

Clawed back

The row centres on a small portion of this - £51m to maintain teacher numbers, including £10m they may get in January.

The number of teachers in Scotland has fallen in recent years to about 51,000 - the government wants this to stop.

Teachers are employed by councils and if teacher numbers fall councils will not get their share of the £10m and may have cash clawed back.

While, as expected, many councils have accepted the funding offer some non SNP authorities are very unhappy.

Some do not like the principal of being told by the government they have to maintain teacher numbers - even where they do not actually disagree with the aim.

Others believe there may be better uses of their cash and think the government should judge them on attainment in schools rather than a raw measure like teacher numbers.

Some fear they could be penalised if there is a small annual drop in teacher numbers because, for instance, of sickness on the day their numbers are counted although government sources have attempted to allay this fear.

Serious dispute

The row also reflects far wider issues than teacher numbers - for some in local government it raises principled issues about just how councils are funded and whether councils are subservient to central government.

Local government body Cosla - which Glasgow and South Lanarkshire officially leave shortly - held what were described as "robust" discussions with the government earlier this week.

It has suggested trying to find a way of maintaining teacher numbers nationally but allowing numbers to fall locally.

If, as expected, the vast bulk of councils accept the funding offer it will be seen as a victory for the government in the most serious dispute between local and central government since devolution.

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