This week in Annandale 04/01/2016

Hello 2016: Welcome to Waterworld

Dumfries and Galloway has taken it’s fair share of water over the last few weeks and the land is sodden with the incessant bouts of rain, and now sleet, brought on by storms Desmond and Frank. The Council has been messing about with the monies awarded by Scottish Government, initially £700k for storm Desmond and then a further £1m for storm Frank and instead of making the £1500 grants readily available to households and businesses easily and quickly, have got muddled up with politicking and have been diverting people to the Scottish Government Crisis Grants, which are available by criteria all year round.

Apply for the £1500 flood support grant.

Sums: Teacher Numbers funding criteria 101

Scottish Government granted £41m to Local Authorities for 2015-16 to maintain teacher numbers and there was an additional £10m award split between those local authorities who were able to achieve this. Unfortunately for a number of reasons Dumfries and Galloway Council couldn’t do this so weren’t eligible for an award (which could have been around £303k – useful when budgets are tight) – luckily the Scottish Government didn’t exercise the option to claw back some of the original share of the £41m.

Some of the politicking and feigned indignation coming out from the official Council press releases is embarrassing for this region’s people. Try not to cringe when you read the fury expressed over the loss of our ‘entitlement’, quite oblivious to the conditional nature of funding that the Council failed to meet.

The issue for Dumfries and Galloway has long been in attracting and retaining teachers, which I’m sure as a Council we have been constantly in dialogue with the Scottish Government so that the issue is recognised and that other forms of support could be drawn upon to support initiatives and incentives for new teachers to come and work in the region.

Knowing how unlikely it was for the Council to meet the teacher target set, would you have included the conditional funding in your budget? I don’t think so. It makes even less sense to agree for early retirements for teachers during a time when staying on may have kept the numbers up enough to be entitled to the extra funding. So were not being punished by the Scottish Government, we’re just being given funding by them but failing to meet criteria for additional monies.

Turns out that while using official Council communications and press releases bemoaning the Scottish Government, the Council are sitting on £2.38m of unspent Scottish Government funding for various projects such as Early Years funding, Children & Young Peoples Bill funding, Developing a Young Workforce funding, Family Support funding, etc. So we’ve managed (to our credit) to draw down more than enough funding, been able to deliver the initiatives ( I hope!! that’ll be the next thing) and be sitting on a few million of Scottish Government surplus. This has only come to light in a paper for Policy & Resources Committee meeting next week where we’ve had to shine a light on some of the squirreled away pots of money hidden in the Council piggy banks.

What’s that quote about protesting too much?

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