DOZENS of school jobs in North Ayrshire are at risk as the local authority looks for ways to plug a £16 million budget gap.

Proposals to review staffing allocations in both primary and secondary schools will be considered at the annual North Ayrshire Council (NAC) budget meeting next week.

If approved, the staffing review would result in the loss of the full-time equivalent (FTE) of 35 jobs across North Ayrshire's schools.

A report to go before councillors at next week's meeting says the proposal is being driven by the fact there are fewer young people attending the area's schools - as well as changes to official guidance on the proper classroom ratio between pupil and teacher numbers.

The report doesn't set out how many jobs would go at individual schools if the proposal is endorsed.

Councillors will decide on the idea, and a range of proposals to cut costs, and will set the council tax rate for the next 12 months, when they meet on Wednesday, February 28.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: The pupil roll at North Ayrshire's schools has fallen by 1,000 in the last five yearsThe pupil roll at North Ayrshire's schools has fallen by 1,000 in the last five years

A list of 'savings options' prepared ahead of that meeting includes the 'reviewing [of] staffing allocations' - a move which officials say would save £1.3m.

At a pre-budget media briefing, NAC chief executive Craig Hatton revealed the number of young people attending the area's schools had fallen by 1,000 in the last five years - and said that if the 'savings option' to reduce school staff numbers was approved, the authority hoped to achieve that through "voluntary redundancies and natural turnover".

Where else could the council save cash?

The proposal to reduce staffing numbers in schools isn't the only education-related 'savings option' set to go before councillors.

Some school crossing patrol jobs could also go - but only where a patroller is working on a street where there's already an existing pedestrian crossing.

That move, officials say, would save £30,000 and see the full-time equivalent of 1.22 jobs lost.

Officers are also recommending a 20 per cent cut in the opening hours of local libraries - roughly the equivalent of losing one day a week if a library were open for five full days - as well as a cut in libraries' supply and operational budgets.

This proposal also includes a re-design of the council's school library service.

Together those measures would save nearly £450,000 over the next 12 months with a 9.5 FTE cut in the size of the council's workforce.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: The council's budget for community Christmas lights could be removed entirely - leaving only enough for one Christmas tree with lights per townThe council's budget for community Christmas lights could be removed entirely - leaving only enough for one Christmas tree with lights per town (Image: Charlie Gilmour)

Another proposal would see NAC's budget for community Christmas lights displays removed entirely, saving £38,000. All that would be left is enough money for one Christmas tree, with lighting, per town.

Also recommended is a cut of £100,000 in the 'roads revenue budget', used for short-term and reactive repairs to problems such as potholes. But officials say this could be "mitigated through continued significant levels of capital investment" in the area's roads network.

A proposal to introduce a £50 annual fee for the collection of garden waste would generate nearly £590,000 in extra revenue, while there's also a recommendation to stop giving out free food waste bin liners, saving almost £30,000.

Officials also suggest a £25,000 saving from a "transition from summer bedding to perennials" - plants which can live for three or more growing seasons and require less maintenance - potentially putting some much-admired summer floral displays at risk unless alternative funding can be found.

Other proposals include a review of operating times at recycling sites (potentially saving £75,000 and losing 2 FTE posts), promoting 'wild flower areas' in school grounds instead of cutting grass (£30,000, 1 FTE), ending evening lets in some secondary schools and re-directing groups to other facilities (£14,000, 0.5 FTE), and removing the council's 'participatory budgeting fund' for arts projects (£7,000, no workforce implications).

What happens now? 

No decisions have been made yet on any of the savings options. 

The final say on which savings to make, and on how much council tax the authority should charge local households, will be made by councillors on Wednesday, February 28.

Officials have recommended that council tax rates should stay the same as in 2023-24 - with extra funding from the Scottish Government said to be enough to cover the equivalent of a 5 per cent increase.