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Date: Thursday 22 November 2007

Council leader dismisses 6,000 signature petition

A row has broken out over comments made by Dumfries & Galloway Council leader - Ivor Hyslop about a 6,000 signature petition due to be presented to him today (Thursday 22 November).

Mr Hyslop described the petition as 'redundant' in an email to UNISON, the union for the Classroom Assistants, and in a further email to a member asked her to point out the agenda items which involved savings and accused the union of 'wasting money' on an advert that asked members of the public to email councillors on the Finance Sub Committee.

The petition - against the proposals to cut 60-70 Classroom Assistant posts - has attracted 6,000 signatures from across the region, and the campaign against the proposals has attracted support from across the political spectrum.

The cuts are part of a package of proposals drawn up by officials to address a funding shortfall. At the last minute, they were withdrawn from the agenda of Thursday's Finance Sub-Committee by the council's Chief Executive.

Graham Abrines, Communications Officer of UNISON's Dumfries and Galloway Branch said "As the region's largest union, we are big enough to ride the rudeness and innuendo in Mr Hyslop's replies, but we are angry about these kind of replies being targeted at worried classroom assistants, members of the public, and others who have the temerity to contact their elected representatives.

"The 6,000 people who signed this petition did so against clear proposals to cut and privatise jobs and services - we know that, the public know that and Ivor Hyslop knows that. To suggest that their actions are redundant, or imply that the meeting had no prospect of discussing these job cuts, is to treat his constituents and the people of Dumfries and Galloway as fools. In a democracy people have a right to make their opinion known to their representatives and not have them respond rudely, or dismissively."

The cuts package was withdrawn from the agenda after last weeks budget announcement from Holyrood meant that a new financial situation might apply. UNISON welcomes the withdrawal, but will continue campaigns against cuts and privatisation in case the proposals reappear once the financial situation becomes clearer.

Marion Stewart, Branch Secretary said "We thank the 6,000 people and many more who have supported our campaign to back our classroom assistants. There is no doubt, despite the claims, that the huge level of support has had an impact on the council's actions in dropping the proposals. Mr Hyslop might be better reflecting on the views of all these voters, rather than attempting to attack people with half-truths and rudeness."


For further information please contact: Contacts for interviews and photographs, UNISON Branch Office /Marion Stewart (Branch Secretary) 01387 257393 Graham Abrines (Branch Communications officer) 07841968441