300 school staff have faced the axe in county in past two years
COMPULSORY redundancy has fallen on 300 school staff in Derbyshire over the past two years – but ruling Tories insist it has "nothing" to do with budget cuts.
The cash-strapped county council has shed around 1,400 staff from its workforce since April 2011, with approximately one in four of the losses – around 330 – being forced upon employees.
The rest were voluntary redundancies or retirements and helped the council save £48 million over the past two years to balance its books.
Of the compulsory redundancies, 90% were working in schools – either as a teacher, teaching assistant, admin worker, laboratory technician, caterer or cleaner.
The number of forced lay-offs is surprising in that Councillor John Harrison, cabinet member for finance, said in 2011 that "very few" compulsory redundancies would have to be made to help the council achieve its savings targets.
Speaking yesterday, Mr Harrison stuck by that view and insisted the compulsory redundancies across Derbyshire's schools was "normal" and not related to budget cuts.
He said: "There haven't been any cuts in education. There's been a record of redundancies in schools going back to the last 10 years and beyond.
"Firstly, the demographic picture shows there have been less pupils and that has resulted in such redundancies. Those demographics seem to have bottomed out now and we're starting to see a rise in pupil numbers again.
"And, secondly, special needs teaching assistants are employed on a one-to-one basis. When that pupil leaves primary school and goes to secondary school, that role becomes redundant. It happens every year.
"Put another way, the compulsory redundancies in schools has nothing to do with the cuts."
Anne Western, leader of the Labour opposition, accused the Tory administration of "spin" and said the council's declining workforce could only be a negative thing.
She said the Tory group had not done enough to lobby Westminster for more cash.
"What they should be doing is hammering on David Cameron's door and telling him that local government cannot take this scale of cuts," she said.