MORE than 1,000 concerned parents have signed an e-petition calling on Conwy to shelve plans to cut school budgets by 5.5% this week.

Despite children’s education being seriously hampered by years of COVID and subsequent lockdowns, Conwy councillors will likely make the decision on Thursday (February 29).

Then the council is set to rubber-stamp its budget at a meeting at its Bodlondeb HQ when it will likely agree widespread cuts and a 9.67% council tax hike. The education cuts alone amount to a whopping £4.161m.

Cuts are being made as the funding settlement for the council is well below the inflationary pressures facing the local authority. Councils across the UK are having to make similar budget cutbacks.

The 5.5% cuts to school budgets follow a 5% cut last year, despite Conwy acknowledging the widespread disruption and damage to children’s education caused by the pandemic.

Lead member for education Cllr Julie Fallon has stated on numerous occasions that vulnerable children will suffer most as provisions for additional needs are slashed – with teaching assistant jobs on the line.

Conwy's headteachers signed a letter condemning the proposed cuts.

The controversial school cuts follow Conwy councillors rubber-stamping their own pay rise in November – with some councillors enjoying a hike of thousands of pounds.

Whilst the rise was set by the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales, not councillors, members are free to refuse the pay rise or accept a lower amount on an individual basis.

The e-petition against the cuts already has 1,189 signatures at the time of writing.

Llandudno dad of four Phil Ashe has a four-year-old son at Ysgol San Sior.

“I find it shocking that the local authority is making education cuts again after cutting the budget by 5% last year and now 5.5%,” he said.

“Schools physically can’t cut their budgets any more unless you start going down the road of (cutting) safeguarding.

“Kids that have got additional needs, they are the ones who are going to suffer, all because Conwy County Council can’t manage their own budget. Loads of people are angry about it.”

He added: “The council is wasting money left, right, and centre on vanity projects that don’t benefit the wider community that just tick boxes for heads of service. It is the most vulnerable kids who will suffer because the teaching assistants will be the first to go.”

Several schools in Conwy have already made redundancies – with more now on the cards.

The information accompanying the e-petition reads: “Conwy schools are in such a poor financial position that headteachers have written to all parents and carers clearly outlining the negative impact further budget cuts imposed by the council will have to our local schools and the staff within them.”

“Knowing the current state of our local schools and pressures they already face, this is of deep concern. I propose the council set aside cuts for schools this coming financial year in order to consult properly with parents and carers as to their long-term plan for schools in the area.”

Cllr Charlie McCoubrey, leader of Conwy County Council, said: “Petitions are always taken seriously as a measure of local interest in a given matter.

“We know how important education and schools are to our residents. The budget-setting process this year has been incredibly challenging in the light of the complex financial situation facing all local authorities.

“Councillors face unpalatable choices of further cuts to services or punitive and unwelcome increases in council tax levels. It is inevitable that when the full council meets to finalise the budget on 29 February there will be difficult decisions to make.”