A ROW has broken out amid a £3m government anti-poverty funding axe which is set to hit schools in Inverclyde.

The swingeing cut to the Scottish Attainment Challenge funding, which has been heavily criticised, has now been confirmed by education bosses.

But Alba councillor Chris McEleny has accused council leader Stephen McCabe of welcoming the change in a statement made in his capacity as a senior figure with the local government association Cosla.

Cllr McEleny said: "For the Labour council leader to welcome this in a government press release really is staggering.

"If he is opposed to this cut he should be standing beside those of us in the council that want to see the decision overturned, not welcoming it in exchange of national recognition.

“Deprivation is at the heart of so many of the challenges we face, ensuring the educational attainment gap between the richest and poorest households in Inverclyde reduces is vitally important to achieving better outcomes in the future.

"This cut must be reversed."

The Scottish Government say it will now split the attainment cash between all 32 local authorities, instead of targeting 'challenge' areas with the highest levels of poverty, such as Inverclyde.

From now on a formula based primarily on population will be used instead, with funding allocated directly in relation to the actual number of children living in low income families.

This means that Inverclyde, which has high levels of deprivation but a smaller population will see its funding dramatically reduced.

It has been agreed to phase in the funding cut, to allow councils to adjust to the blow.

In 2022/23 the funding will fall from the current level of £3.4m to £2.7m, then after that it will reduce every year until it is around £600,000.

When the Tele reported the decision both Councillor McEleny and McCabe both slammed the cuts.

But Councillor McCabe was also included in a separate statement from the Scottish Government welcoming the changes.

In it he commented: "Councils are on the frontline of efforts to support children and young people in poverty every day. "That’s why we welcome the recognition that councils across Scotland will be pivotal in work to tackle the attainment gap.”

Mr McCabe says the criticism levelled at him by Cllr McEleny is wide of the mark.

He said: "My job as the Coslsa spokesperson is to articulate the agreed Cosla position.

"This position was agreed unanimously by all 32 council leaders, including the leaders of the nine challenge authorities.

"There is nothing in the above statement that welcomes the reduction in funding to Inverclyde or the other eight challenge authorities.

"As I have stated previously I would have preferred if the Scottish Government had increased the overall level of funding so that councils had a share of a bigger cake rather than cutting the same cake 32 ways instead of nine.

"The Scottish Government was not prepared to agree to that and the best we could achieve was to phase the reduction in funding over four years."

Mr McCabe also accused his Alba party rival of hypocrisy.

He said: "It is interesting that after his switch to Alba Councillor McEleny is all too happy to attack the Scottish Government for reducing funding to Inverclyde when for many years before he acted as his former party’s principal cheerleader here, welcoming SNP budget after budget that cut funding for vital council services.

"I won’t take any lessons from him on standing up for Inverclyde."