Councillor Marshall sets the generations at war – care homes versus rural schools

In a communication circulated widely in his constituency in Cowal – focused on items in the council budget proposal -  Councillor Bruce Marshall includes the following passage on adult care:

‘Adult Care

The list of saving options relating to Adult Care are significant – see page 95 for full details of how nearly £4.5 million will be cut from these services over the next three years.

The proposed closure of Struan Lodge which would save the Council £400k would have a massive impact upon the present 11 inmates some of whom are very elderly and infirm. I believe we should not take that cut but instead close 7 primary schools which have less then 10 pupils, 2 schools have three pupils and 3 have 4 pupils.     

I also believe the damage being done to these children who will have minimal peer interaction before moving to secondary education, will be immense. The present SNP Govt. have banned the closure of any rural primary school in Scotland.

The Care Home Placement budget is used to fund residential places for older people who need that level of support – page 113 makes it clear that the cut of nearly £600k a year will lead to “a direct reduction in service provision”

In addition, despite it being national and local policy to support older people in their own homes for as long as possible, the administration plans to cut the Council’s Homecare Budget by over £250k per year. If the Homecare budget, which is used to support older people still living at home, is reduced then there will be increased delay in getting the correct package in place, increasing the risk of harm to an individual at home or of “bed blocking” by delaying the discharge of an elderly person from hospital. Even the Council papers describe this cut as “’contrary to national policy and a false economy.” (page 111/12)


On a point of fact, the current Scottish government has not banned the closure of any rural school – in fact it has been active, through inexplicable call-in decisions, in closing some well populated and high performing schools like Crossroads in Ayrshire and Robslee in Renfrew.

There are alternative choices of cost saving neither Councillor Marshall nor successive council administrations seem prepared to consider.

During the war between the electorate and the previous council administration, of which Bruce Marshall was a member, over their proposal to close 26 rural primary schools in Argyll, it was revealed that the council had a major fleet of so-called ‘Quality Improvement Officers’, earning north of £55-£60k per annum. Moreover that administration went on, during that period, to add  Quality Improvement Managers’ as admirals of the fleet.

There is  no evidence of any significant quality these posts have added to the provision of education in Argyll – which teachers are  now paid extremely well to be responsible for delivering – and the performance of the QIOs on show during the closure consultation process did not command either confidence or respect.

These people are young enough to find a proper job but not so very young as to be in danger of losing their schools or old enough to need care.

Shutting down this section would save enough in a single stroke to keep Struan Lodge open and to address the serious lack of elderly care provision in Mull, where the situation is parlous.

It is also worth noting that Councillor Marshall is effectively setting a notional figure of ten pupils as the threshhold below which schools should close. Is this a notion circulating in council?

Yet rural education is highly contextualised.

A rural school of, say, seven,  pupils, gathered across a local hinterland and with no alternative within acceptable travel times for tinies, should not close. A school of seven pupils, with another and bigger school, say 15 minutes away, is a different proposition.

Councillor Marshall’s position does underline the Judgment of Solomon choices that will be made unless local authorities are prepared to do more work in saving money by many small efficiencies rather than a crude major cut in a single area  – and make harder choices much closer to home.

It is also important to hear voices in the council speaking for those in the worst place of all – the unable elderly.

The reality of their care in every aspect from the treatment of physical and health problems to homing and nursing care is – not just in Argyll – at a standard third world countries would not contemplate.

It will take not just governments and local authorities but all of us to make every contribution we can to addressing this serious social ill.

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13 Responses to Councillor Marshall sets the generations at war – care homes versus rural schools

  1. Since when have we refered to our elderly in care homes as “inmates”?

    Lovely Bruce, see you are being as sensitive and tactful as ever.

    And he seems to be quoting that well known fact that all rural children grow up to be backwards, psychopathic miscreants.

    Well Bruce, as long as my kids don’t grow up to be a complete ignoramous like yourself, I’ll be happy with that.

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  2. He’s not the sharpest tool in the box. We should be asking ourselves who wrote that for him. I can think of a few candidates.

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  3. QIOs may not provide value for money but they do have an important role in supporting co-operation between secondary schools, particularly valuable when many schools run with single teacher departments, and so don’t have a lot of opportunity to liaise with other subject specialists outside of meetings organised by QIOs. This does contribute significantly to improving education, particularly in more isolated schools.

    It’s also worth considering that, if memory serves, the number of QIOs has already been cut, and I would like to see figures for how much would be saved by cutting the rest.

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    • I do believe there is a need for a level above head teachers in an arbitary sense, as a safeguard in decision making. there are probably too many of them though.
      QIO’s provide this important link.

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      • That’s a big if, is my point. I don’t know what else they do. My suspicion is that newsroom doesn’t either, and I don’t much like people taking a swipe at the work other people do if they’re speaking from a position of ignorance.

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  4. On page 211 of the budget papers the proposal is to cut three Full Time posts from a total of 16.The saving would be £190,000 for a full year.The current budget for the service team within the Education department is £1,068,000.There is plenty of people at Kilmory that could arrange meetings a lot cheaper.
    Ask the cleaners and janitors about the 20% cut they are facing and the many other cuts that Education across Argyll will have to deal with and it is obvious that a second tier of management like QIO,S are not at the top of the list for saving in my mind.A million plus to arrange meetings you have to be joking.

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    • Oh, I quite agree. I was just pointing out that the QIOs do have some use. They may have other functions that I’m not aware of, though I wouldn’t hold my breath. A better solution might be to second an existing teacher per subject across the authority for, say, one day a week to work on coordination across that subject. It would seem to be an obvious rule for an assistant PT in a large school to take on.

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  5. In my opinion, I feel all nursing homes should be owned by a community co-operative. This means that all the profits are put back into the nursing home. This means that you could employ more staff. The standards would improve because the locals “own” the nursing home, so they would want the best for their loved ones.

    Doing it this way, the elderly get a quality high standard nursing home….and the children get their schools….

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  6. I agree, Kay, I also proposed this idea to a community where I thought it would work rather well. Unfortunately I think everyone else thought that I was barking mad.

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  7. I am actually amazed that there is a council care home in Argyll, just as I was amazed to discover there were still Community Centres! Argyll has cut so many services to the bone in Helensburgh and Lomond (and that was in the golden years of their finances)that I am surprised there are any services at all left to cut…

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