Major defends school cash cap

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Indy Politics
As protesters from England and Wales gathered in London yesterday to lobby MPs against education cuts, the Prime Minister told local authorities facing teacher redundancies to cut back on bureaucracy instead.

At Question Time, John Major responded to calls for him to intervene to help struggling schools by arguing that there were still two education administrators for every three teachers in the country. "If any local authority is thinking of cutting teachers in the classroom, I would like to ask them what savings they have made in non-teaching aspects of education.

"We have recognised from the outset that this year's settlement is tough in education. We have never made any secret of that fact. What we have made clear is that local authorities must choose their priorities, and we believe that teachers in the classroom are a priority."

About 1,000 people, including a teacher and a school governor from almost every constituency, attended yesterday's rally at Westminster.

Six local authorities have set budgets above their spending limit after a government decision not to fund the teachers' 2.7 per cent annual pay rise. Dozens of governors have resigned.

John Monks, TUC general secretary, told the gathering of parents, governors and teachers the unions would co-ordinate a national campaign against further cuts next year. "The Government is in a total shambles over education. I want today's lobby to be followed up by joint campaigning teams in every constituency, who will meet at the TUC in a couple of weeks."

David Blunkett, Labour's education spokesman, said the Government was spending almost £800m less on education than promised. If the saving was used to allow for tax cuts before the next election, it might be necessary to ask voters whether they would rather pay less tax or see more spent on education. He will lobby hard within his party for heavy education investment over the next decade if it won the next general election.