Conservative Councillors in B&NES have rejected calls for a new schools funding formula to be phased in so that schools in deprived areas do not lose out.
The new formula must be introduced across the board in 2020, but the local Cabinet member decided to bring in the formula early. This will benefit some local schools, which will see increased funding earlier. However, some other local schools – particularly those in areas of deprivation – will be disadvantaged, as they will lose out on two years’ of higher funding under the current formula. The consultation papers show that almost a quarter of local schools (21 out of 79) are set to see funding losses, totalling £437,000 a year under the new National Formula compared to the current local system.
A formal challenge (call in) was tabled by opposition Lib Dem and Labour Councillors, calling for alternatives, such as a tapered introduction, to be considered. A joint motion by opposition Councillors called for transitional funding to be provided for schools, with the funds being drawn from Council reserves. These proposals were rejected by the Conservative-majority ‘Children and Young People’ panel.
Twerton Councillor, Tim Ball (Lib Dems), who led the challenge at the call in meeting, commented:
“By bringing in the new funding formula now, the Conservatives are ensuring that schools in the most deprived areas of B&NES miss out on thousands of pounds of vital funding. Even if the new system becomes mandatory in 2020, that extra money over the next two years could have made a make a big difference.
“Schools are facing a funding crisis, due to the government funding squeeze, which compounds the problems of rising costs, population growth and new responsibilities. At the end of the day, inflation means that even the small cash increase most schools will receive under the new formula is a real terms cut.
“Our local area has one of the most extreme gaps between the haves and the have nots. Proper funding for education is vital to set our children on the right path for the future and ensure they can make a success of their lives. As a society we need to prioritise investment in people; it’s clear that the Conservatives don’t understand this.”
Note: the joint motion, referred to above, read: “The panel agrees that the call-in should be upheld and that the Cabinet Member should reconsider the decision having regard to:
- the absence of equality impact assessments at both consultation and decision stages and;
- the absence of satisfactory consideration of transitional arrangements.
“In addition the panel further recommends that the Council uses reserves to fund such transitional arrangements to provide certainty in setting schools’ budgets.”