Conservative Councillor Tony Miklinski has warned that Holyrood proposals to alter school governance are “a naked power grab” by the SNP government, which will disempower councils and destroy local democratic accountability.
He claims the changes will strip elected members and councils of authority as it shifts key decision-making about Fife’s schools to a supra-regional body of unelected burocrats under the central control of the Scottish Government.
The proposals are contained in the consultation document, “Empowering Schools” which lays out a root and branch re-organisation of the way head teachers, local authorities and the Scottish Government interact.
The member for Cupar said:
“While we support some proposals, such as giving head teachers greater powers, as a proven method of driving up standards, the new governance system will have the opposite effect. It removes almost all authority over Fife schools from locally elected Fife Councillors and gives it to a “Regional Improvement Collaborative” run by a mix of 5 separate local authority officers and a Scottish Government appointee.
“Local people hold local councillors accountable for standards of education in local schools. Under these changes, you’ll have 6 different people in 6 different organisations to seek redress from; and none of them will be elected. It’s a shambles: complex, confusing and ultimately unworkable – a recipe for mutual recrimination and chaos in our schools. Right now, people know who is responsible for what to whom. Not in the future.
“This “reform” is driven by the SNP’s visceral distrust of local authorities. For the last 10 years the SNP Government has relentlessly pursued an agenda of central control, systematically hollowing out the role of locally elected councils, curtailing their powers and cutting their funding.”
A Labour Councillor also expressed concerns over job losses that would result when much of the budget and responsibility is removed from Fife Council. Serious tensions were evident in December’s Council meeting when this subject was debated, and several Councillors from other Parties expressed support, off the record, for the joint Conservative/Lib Dem motion.
Cllr Miklinski added:
“There is widespread unhappiness about these changes in schools and at Fife House – not least because these changes will spell significant budget cuts and job losses at the Council as the EIS has recognised**.
“But with the SNP in charge at Fife Council and obliged to follow their master’s line at Holyrood, debate and dissent have been stifled.
“I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I see SNP councillors supporting moves which will make them an irrelevance in the education of Fife’s children.
”These changes are being waved through without proper public discussion. Parents need to get involved and make sure they understand what the biggest change to school governance in the history of Fife schools means.
“Everyone who values local democracy also needs to reflect. If local Councillors are not to be trusted to oversee the delivery of public services and be held accountable by their constituents, then what are they for?”
Responses to “Empowering Schools” are due in to the Scottish Government by 30 Jan 18.