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EDUCATION PROMISE DOESN'T ADD UP, NICOLA; GRILLED OVER SPENDING PRIORITIES First Minister forced on to the defensive over budget cuts to council spending.

Byline: ANDY PHILIP a.philip@dailyrecord.co.uk

NICOLA Sturgeon was accused of double standards yesterday over her promise to improve education outcomes despite slashing council budgets.

Sturgeon was forced to defend SNP spending priorities as opposition leaders criticised the draft budget announced a day earlier.

Local authorities are furious that Finance Secretary John Swinney plans to chop PS320million from their budgets while forcing them to freeze council tax for a ninth year.

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities claimed as many as 15,000 council jobs could be lost because of the swingeing cash cut.

Sturgeon admitted the SNP's draft budget is tough on councils but insisted she is "proud" of the spending decisions.

She said opposition parties are ignoring a separate PS33million to close the attainment gap. And she underlined a PS250million fund for councils to run social care services.

Opposition leaders raised their concern at First Minister's Questions yesterday where budget fallout dominated exchanges.

Scots Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said Sturgeon's commitment to education got off to a bad start.

TAX FREEZE He added: "The biggest thing that councils do is education and they have been hammered by the Government in the budget.

"The First Minister clings on to the attainment fund while she butchers the school budgets of councils. It is not as if the First Minister had no choices.

"She decided to match George Osborne on income tax, match him on second homes, match him on business rate poundage and undercut the Tories on the council tax.

"She had a range of choices but the result is that she is proposing lower tax and lower spend than even George Osborne thinks is needed.

"How can the First Minister say education is her top priority if she is putting all that before the children of the country?" Scots Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said councils are central to children's education.

Swinney She added: "John Swinney's budget pulled the rug out from under them.

"Nicola Sturgeon cannot guarantee that the budget will not result in job losses for our specialist teachers, classroom assistants, janitors and office staff.

"This week, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development published a sobering report on the state of education in Scotland. The rest of the world is catching up with us and overtaking us in maths. Furthermore, the poorest kids continue to be left behind."

Sturgeon said: "Yesterday's budget settlement was a tough one for local government - I make no bones about that.

"However, I want to put it in context. The net revenue reduction for local authorities next year will be PS320million.

"That amounts to a reduction of two per cent in the total expenditure of local authorities. It is a challenging settlement."

Education has been hammered by the Scottish Government in the draft budget WILLIE RENNIE

CAPTION(S):

UNDER FIRE Sturgeon

TAX FREEZE Swinney

ATTACK Rennie in Holyrood

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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Dec 18, 2015
Words:479
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