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15/02/2017 – Labour to put education funding first at WSCC budget meeting

West Sussex Labour councillors are calling on all parties to support a proposed county council campaign to build on the recent “Worth Less” campaign by local headteachers, students and governors simply titled “Worth Much More”.

The Labour Group is also proposing a budget amendment to provide an emergency county fund of £1.3 million to provide a financial lifeline for West Sussex schools struggling most with their budgets, to bid for to help mitigate the worst effects of the lack of transitional funding.

Labour has tabled of motion at Friday’s upcoming county council meeting, recognising the severe difficulties headteachers and school governing bodies are having trying to manage current finances, calling on the West Sussex county council leadership to put much more pressure on the Government to ensure that schools have the funding they need to provide an excellent education for every one of its pupils, and for councillors to individually support once more the continuing need for extra money for schools before the proposed new funding formula comes in, which will not be until the next financial year at the earliest.

Many of the county’s schools are in financial crisis. According to information supplied to the Labour Group, in the past year of the 224 schools the County Council are responsible for, 29 had to apply to WSCC to access a fund for schools in financial difficulty. Many more schools this year are reporting that their own financial reserves have now been almost entirely exhausted, indicating next year could see a significant number heading for deficits.

Local authority schools in West Sussex have been hit even further by the withdrawal in the forthcoming financial year by the Government of the Education Services Grant (ESG). It is proposed this charge be passed onto schools meaning another cut of £46 per pupil this year.

The continuing financial pressures have led governors from 40 West Sussex schools to write to local MPs warning that they may take additional action to protest against the impossible situation local schools are being put in. The action would involve: withdrawing and/or suspending their voluntary services, refusing to sign off budgets for 2017/18, setting deficit budgets for maintained schools, and reserving the right to take future actions should matters not improve.

Despite this deficit, it is on record that the Government had put aside £384 million for academisation, and another £150 million to create grammar schools, yet the Worth Less campaign’s desperate plea for £20 million transitional funding has gone unanswered.

Across the country, the Government has not taken account of the cost implications for schools of policy changes such as National Insurance, teacher pensions, ESG and the Apprenticeship Levy. The impact of these policy changes is an 8% real terms reduction in per pupil funding by 2019/20.

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