The MSP welcomed a letter this week from parents to Tam Baillie, the Children’s Commissioner, who had last week advised the council to delay the cuts – advice ignored by the council’s ruling Labour Group who voted them through with Tory support.
Ms McAlpine had successfully urged Mr Baillie to intervene on behalf of the affected children last week, on the grounds that they had not been properly consulted and the cuts would damage their education.
Now parents have contacted Mr Baillie again – backing his intervention and refuting a letter sent to the commissioner by council chief executive Gavin Stevenson defending the cuts process.
Commenting on the parents group letter Ms McAlpine said:
“This is very embarrassing for Dumfries and Galloway’s Labour council and the Tories who helped them for through cuts that will result in 52 lost jobs supporting vulnerable children.
“Why do they think they know more about the rights of children than the independent expert charged with defending those rights in Scotland?
“Some of these lost jobs are teachers. That could put the council in direct conflict with the Scottish Government who have given councils £51 million to maintain teacher numbers. Last week Scottish finance secretary told parliament that any council cutting teachers would lose its share of the £51 million.”
Ms McAlpine said the parents’ letter to Mr Baillie exposed the flawed consultation.
“The letter says most parents were unaware of the learning support review and those who did know did not realise it involved cuts. The consultation was mainly conducted over the Internet and so failed to reach many families.
“Parents were not informed of the results of the consultation and comments made that were critical of the cuts were not included. The parent’s letters says that they are unconvinced children and young people were consulted properly and point out that the “consultation partner” organisations listed by Mr Stevenson did not include any which were specifically devoted to children’s needs.”
Ms McAlpine said it was absurd for Labour to claim that the SNP was to blame and pointed out that the latest local government settlement saw Dumfries and Galloway’s grant allocation from Holyrood rise from £292 million to £293 million.
“Labour cannot pass the buck on this one as they are running the council and they are responsible. The money for councils in Scotland is much better than for councils in England. But there is still a squeeze on because the Scottish government’s grant has been cut by 10% by Westminster and that naturally affects the money available. It is significant that Labour at Westminster recently voted with the Tories to CONTINUE austerity cuts after the general election. They are quite simply hypocrites”