The leader of East Renfrewshire Council has admitted the prospect of education being hit hard by a £30million budget gap is a “real worry.”

Councillor Owen O’Donnell spoke out as he shed light on the challenges faced by the local authority as it tries to plug the financial black hole.

East Renfrewshire has a reputation for high-quality education but there are fears this could change due to the severity of cuts that will be needed.

Council officials have reported a saving of £13.6m could be made from school management budgets but this could see funding for staff working with the lowest-performing 20% of children reduced, with fewer pupil support teachers in place.

Cutbacks could also see primary school pupils receiving 22.5 hours of education per week, rather than the current level of 25 hours.

Councillor O’Donnell said the situation is “heartbreaking” for the council’s education team, which has developed “the best schools in Scotland.”

The Labour politician added: “We know that’s important for the life chances of all the pupils within East Renfrewshire.”

More than 1,500 people submitted responses to a budget strategy group that is considering the various options to plug the financial gap.

Councillor O’Donnell said the feedback shows that education “remains a key priority for residents.”

These responses will be taken into consideration before the strategy group outlines the impact of proposed cuts.

Away from education, other savings options include changing the three-weekly waste collection to four-weekly, moving to a fortnightly food and garden waste collection and closing Barrhead’s household recycling service.

Reducing grass cutting in parks, closing grass football pitches, increasing burial charges and slashing the budget for road and pavement repairs are also on the table, with the council leader describing these options as “grades of terrible.”

Last week, we told how up to 550 jobs at the council could be lost over the next three years as savings are made.

Councillor O’Donnell has said the local authority is trying to protect “as many jobs and services as possible” but added: “We can’t protect everything.”

He added: “It’s a serious issue for the staff and it’s not great for morale when they know that this is hanging over the council.”

The budget shortfall for the 2023/24 financial year alone is expected to be around £20m.

Councillor O’Donnell has said he believes local residents would prefer increased charges, such as a “higher than normal” council tax rise, rather than cuts to services.

He added that no decision on a council tax increase has been made at this stage.