INVERCLYDE'S largest public sector union has warned that proposed cuts to local schools will have a devastating impact.

Unison says some of the area's most vulnerable children could be affected by council budget cuts next year.

Municipal Buildings bosses recently launched a consultation asking for the public's views on where the next round of savings should be concentrated.

To balance the books they are proposing axing support staff in schools, home and school link workers and reducing school library services.

Dismayed union leaders are now demanding an urgent increase in local government funding and have called on management to find a way to continue to protect frontline jobs.

Unison branch secretary Robin Taggart said: “Some of the cuts being proposed will be very damaging for our communities, particularly those people most in need of council services.

"Cuts to libraries, including school libraries, of £300,000 will mean significant reductions in opening hours and the loss of 10 jobs.

"There are also proposals to remove some classroom assistant and home school link worker posts from schools, which will create additional work for teachers as well as reducing services to children and families who most need this support.

"Services to vulnerable children within the council’s health and social care partnership could be cut by £173,000.

"These are just some of the damaging cuts being proposed.

"If taken, these cuts become irreversible and it will have a real impact on those who need these services.”

Mr Taggart is also worried about proposed cuts affecting other departments.

He said: "Proposed cuts within safer communities and social protection services, to reduce the budget by £420,000 with the loss of 15 jobs, will ultimately compromise public safety."

Final decisions will not be taken until next March, when the council will set its budget for 2020/21.

Mr Taggart said: “It is self-evident that most of these cuts and cuts in general would be avoidable if the Scottish Government took a more responsible approach to local government funding.

"Unison acknowledges that the funding problems facing the council are not all of their own doing.

"However, and taking account of the financial constraints imposed upon the council, they can still deliver a balanced budget next year that protects jobs and front line services.”

The Scottish Government today defended its record on local government funding.

A spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Government has ensured our partners in local government receive a fair funding settlement – despite further cuts to the Scottish budget from the UK Government – delivering a funding package of £11.2 billion for all local authorities in 2019-20.

"This is a real terms increase of more than £310 million for essential public services in Scotland.

Inverclyde Council will receive £181.3m to fund local services in 2019-20.

"Using their council tax powers they will generate an additional £1.7m to total £183m - an increase of £8.2m or 4.7 per cent compared to 2018-19.

"Any assumptions relating to possible future budget reductions are entirely speculative at this stage.”