Aberdeen council was today criticised for ordering schools to return £750,000 in underspends in a bid to ease “budget challenges”.
School officials from across Aberdeen were told to return the money to council coffers as the city council battles to balance its budget.
The measure has seen individual schools give back tens of thousands of pounds they haven’t spent.
It is understood Bucksburn Academy has taken one of the largest hits, with the council demanding it hand back around £200,000.
The school had been setting aside money from its budget for the last two years so it could fund a major upgrade of its IT equipment.
Steve Delaney, councillor for Kingswells, Sheddocksley and Summerhill, hit out at the council and said the move “sends out the wrong message”.
He said: “Clearly Bucksburn has been acting responsibly, and has being putting aside some of its budget each year to build up an accumulated fund so they can make a better purchase. I’m very concerned. I think that it sends out the wrong message.”
An email response from council officers sent to Mr Delaney said: “The service is unable to either reverse this decision or, given the current budget challenges the council faces, provide any additional funding to the school.”
Councillor John Wheeler, convener of the education and children’s services committee, defended the measure – and blasted Mr Delaney.
He said: “As part of the budget process for 2017/18 a letter was sent to all schools confirming their DEM (devolved budgets) carry forward for the year, following the unanimous position adopted by councillors at the budget process in 2017/18.
“It is important to note that there was no cut in the budget allocated to Bucksburn school and as such Aberdeen City Council remains committed to providing the highest education to all pupils right across our city.
“Given councillor Delaney supported a Lib Dem budget which included the clawing back of the money I find his comments hypocritical to say the least.”
Mr Delaney admitted his party supported the general plan to take back unspent school funds – however stressed that there should be conditions.
Mr Delaney said: “I can fully understand when public money has been given out, that the council expects it to be spent rather than saved. But I think that when it’s been saved for a purpose, and the purpose has been stated, then there should be a bit of leeway and a bit of common sense, especially when such actions are designed to deliver extra resources for the children.
“The proposal was not made by the Liberal Democrats, but it was made by council officers, and adopted by all parties.
“I would have expected that, if the monies were earmarked for something, then they would not be clawed back.”