29 March 2006

Board U-turn in school cuts vote


Members of the Belfast Education and Library Board have narrowly voted to accept budget cuts of £6.6m.

The board had twice refused to implement the cutbacks but they were warned a commissioner would be appointed if they failed to do so.

Board members said they hoped the cuts could be phased in over a longer period so if more funds became available, some measures could be avoided.

The motion was passed at a board meeting by 15 votes to 14.

Board member Dinah McMaster of the Holy Family School, said they all accepted cuts should not be made "but the fact is we don't live in a utopia".

'Real world'

"We live in the real world, and there isn't enough money in the system, but what we want to do as principals is make sure we have a voice," she said.

"If we had voted against that today, we would have been burying our head in the sand - somebody else would have walked in and made the cuts. We want to stay in a position of influence."

However, Ulster Unionist board member Fred Cobain said the cuts should not have been backed.

"I think the cuts were so deep that I don't think anyone, educationalist or politician, could have voted for them," he said.

"It means an increase in school meals, it means an end to patrol men and women, it means people are going to have to pay more for transport, it means a huge range of redundancies both at board centre and probably among teachers."

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