20 March 2006

Board facing school cuts dilemma

BBC

The Belfast Education and Library Board is to discuss what services must be cut to make up its £6.5m budget shortfall.

The board had been asked to make the cuts at an earlier meeting but had refused until they had a chance to talk to Education Minister Angela Smith.

Speaking ahead of Monday's meeting, BELB chairman Jim Rodgers said the minister had since told them the shortfall must still be met.

He said she had been "understanding" but "there was no more money".

Areas which could face cuts include the budget for special needs, with possible redundancies and unit closures.

Other targets could also include crossing patrols, an increase in school meal costs and job losses at Belfast School of Music.

Mr Rodgers said it was "not going to be easy" to address the budget shortfall.

"It's entirely up to the members, on the advice of our officers, what we do today, and hopefully we can make things as easy as possible," he said.

"But the reality is, regardless of what the department tells you, we do not have enough money going into education in Northern Ireland, nevermind the city of Belfast. It has got to be addressed."

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