The concordat agreed by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the Scottish Government sets out how funding and outcome agreements will operate over the next three years.
The document is worth reading on a number of counts but it’s the section relating to efficiency savings that perhaps sets out the greatest challenge for education.
The text reads as follows:
For the period 2008-09 to 2010-11, the level of efficiency savings which all parts of the public sector will be expected to meet has been set at 2 per cent per annum. Under the partnership offer, local authorities will be allowed to retain all of these, to re-deploy against ongoing pressures and address local priorities. This represents special treatment for local government. All other parts of the public sector will have an element of their efficiency savings deducted at source.
When combined with the impact of removing ring-fenced funding streams, retaining efficiency savings will give authorities significant scope to re-deploy their resources to meet many of the funding pressures they will face over the next three years.
So at least 6% savings over a three year period. At first glance it looks a reasonable deal for education but the reality is that there is no guarantee that efficiency savings made in education will remain there, although they may be spent elsewhere within the authority depending upon need.
We had a meeting of our Finance Advisory and Scrutiny Group on Friday and the challenges facing education in East Lothian will no doubt be replicated in the rest of Scotland to a greater or lesser extent.
The key role for all leaders in education is to ensure that we maintain our focus upon improving our service at a time when our budgets may be reducing – easier to say than to do – but an obligation nevertheless.