Monday, 21 September 2009

Schools cuts will only pay for extra £2bn to EU

This weekend Schools Secretary Ed Balls became the first cabinet minister to set out where the axe may fall on public services, in the government's bid to bring Britain's finances back into balance.

But rather than cut the unjustifiable extra £2bn the government plans to give to the EU next year, Mr Balls revealed that he wants to cut the same amount from the schools budget instead.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, Mr Balls said that up to 3,000 senior school staff could be axed instead of excessive spending on the EU.

Primary school heads as well as deputies, assistant heads, plus heads of subject in primary and secondary schools could all find themselves in the firing line.

But any benefit to our public finances contributed by these likely painful schools cuts will be quickly eaten up by the looming 60% increase in the amount Britain pays into the EU's mismanaged accounts.

Rot at the top

As the minister widely recognised to be Gordon Brown's right-hand man, it's fair to assume Mr Ball's stance - that cash for key services must be chopped before cash for the EU - represents misguided attitudes to public services right at the top of government.

But how many MPs - especially those in the most marginal seats - will stand by this twisted credo when schools in their own constituencies face staff cuts?

MPs can't possibly hope that voters will accept an explanation that the state of our public finances warrants cuts when people can see even more billions being splashed on the audit-failing EU.

Angry reaction

The government's plans have been angrily criticised by teachers' organisations and are already being described as a potential 'bloodbath'.

Speaking about Mr Balls, Mick Brookes of the the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "The impression he gives is that head teachers are among the 'bureaucrats' who can be replaced."

"What does he think they're doing all day? We're looking for him to get his own house in order before criticising school leadership."

EU waste

Stopping the complete waste of public money on the EU - at the very least blocking next year's unacceptable £2bn increase - would be a good first step towards the government getting its own house in order.

Two recent examples of how the EU is wasting public money on a grand scale are typical of the stories that now appear regularly.

According to the Irish edition of the Sunday Times earlier this month, retiring Irish Commissioner Charlie McCreevy is set to receive a massive £362,000 (€400,000) EU payoff, having spent five years enjoying a £216,000 (€239,000) EU salary plus lavish expenses.

Worse, Mr McCreevy is just one Commissioner of 27 enjoying that pay packet, and not the only one soon retiring.

And just last week there was news via EUobserver that the EU is splashing £280m on a new, self-titled 'palace' in Brussels to house its top officials.

Take action

To contact Ed Balls and ask him why teachers are getting the chop rather than the £2bn extra the government plans to give the EU, you can email him at

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