SCHOOL kitchens and classroom assistants could be axed as part of cost cuts under consideration by council chiefs as union leaders launch a campaign and petition in defence of jobs and services.

Battlelines have been drawn just weeks after councillors in South Ayr­shire announced a multi-million pound package of new schools and upgrades.

Fears over jobs and a reduction in services across the area's education sector have been voiced by Paul Arkison, a union regional officer with GMB Scotland.

He has decided to speak out at a time when local politicians grapple with cost cuts of £4.6million for the coming year.

The efficiency savings were agreed in the run-up to Christmas at a budget meeting setting out the local authority's spending priorities for the coming three years.

Mr Arkison said: "We are asking everyone who is concerned about these cuts to show support for the campaign in South Ayrshire and also request that the elected councillors reconsider the impact their decision will have and ask them to Support Our Schools, rather than damage them."

Education bosses operate kitchens at 36 of their 51 schools with the GMB claiming half the kitchens could be axed with jobs under threat among 60 school crossing patrollers and 290 school assistants - formerly classroom helpers.

Council leader Bill McIntosh denies the "safety and wellbeing of pupils" will be put at risk when he and colleagues agree just how the multi-million pound "efficiency savings" will be made.

Instead Councillor McIntosh pointed to a £55m school investment programme.

He said: "Our priority is to agree suitable service standards within our schools and ensure the staffing levels are fit for purpose based on ­individual school roll numbers and location."