Teachers angry after Balls says he will cut 3,000 senior posts

Schools Secretary accused of 'amazing turn-around' as Whitehall looks for spending cuts

The Schools Secretary Ed Balls prompted fury among heads and teachers yesterday as he outlined surprise plans to save £2bn by axeing 3,000 senior staff posts, most of them deputy heads.

Mr Balls made the announcement as it emerged that civil servants across Whitehall have been instructed to be ruthless in cutting budgets. Sources at No 10 said all departments have been ordered to look again, with "laser-like" precision, at their spending plans and have been given licence to suggest shelving ministerial pet projects.

The rethink comes as mandarins are being forced to deal with Government demands to halve the record levels of public debt – alongside its pledge somehow not to damage frontline services. Departments are working on new plans in the run-up to the Pre-Budget Report (PBR), which the Chancellor delivers in the autumn.

"Civil servants are drawing up options, but everything will have to be signed off by ministers," said a Downing St source. "If something is going to hit frontline services that people rely on, they will have to think again."

Doomsday scenarios have been drawn up in several departments. The Department for Transport is vulnerable as it is planning big infrastructure projects, such as Crossrail and a new high-speed rail network. However, Lord Adonis remains committed to both projects and will fight to keep them.

Defence could also be hit hard. Both the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, and the Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, have already been summoned to Downing St to discuss their department's spending plans. Ed Balls must meet the Prime Minster this week, although No 10 sources said the meetings were a normal part of planning in the run-up to a PBR.

Mr Balls was accused of making an extraordinary U-turn after saying just six months ago that education spending would be ring-fenced against cuts.

He said the £2bn could be achieved through merging comprehensive schools into "federations", with one overall head taking charge of up to six secondaries. Cutting the cost of heating, lighting and repairs to schools by 10 per cent could also save up to £800m a year, he said. Squeezing teachers' pay from 2011, and forcing schools to spend money in reserve are also part of the cost-cutting plan.

The outcry against his proposals was led by John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders.

Mr Dunford spoke of anger among heads that senior positions within schools were being confused with bureaucrats: "Strong leadership has been one of the key contributors to raising standards in schools," he said.

Christina McAnea, national secretary of Unison, said: "One person's bureaucrat is another's invaluable administrator, even more so in schools. Heads often say they couldn't do their job without fantastic administrators, be they school bursars, secretaries or whatever."

The Tories said that Mr Balls, a key adviser to the Prime Minister on combating the Tories, had undergone "an amazing turn-around" in backing difficult cuts to school staff. "This is the man that just a couple of weeks ago was central to the 'Tory cuts/Labour investment' strategy," the source said. "Then Mr Brown gives a speech on cuts and it's all change."

David Laws, the Liberal Democrats' education spokesman, echoed that sentiment: He [Balls] "was saying there was a different line between his party and the other parties. They wouldn't make cuts and he was confident they could ring-fence his particular budget even though the Chancellor didn't agree with him." The Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg, went further, describing the plan as "absolute madness".

Mr Balls responded yesterday by saying that it would still be possible to have a "modest growth" in the education budget, though he conceded that any growth would have to be much smaller than in previous years.

"I have said I would like to see real-terms rises for schools, but we are not going to see the 4 per cent-plus real-terms increases we have seen in the past," he told BBC1's Politics Show. "What we can do is pool leadership ... and that can free up resources."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 1 Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Our client is a small friendly village prim...

Recruitment Genius: Student Support Assistants - Part Time & Full Time

£14600 - £17600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are passionate about sup...

Tradewind Recruitment: Intervention Teacher Required To Start ASAP.

£125 - £150 per day + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: A 'wonderful primary ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Our client is an 11-16 mixed commun...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore