28/06/2006

SEELB warned not to compromise children's needs

Education Minister Maria Eagle has today issued a warning to members of the South Eastern Education & Library Board (SEELB) that they must shoulder the responsibilities that come with Board membership.

Taking into consideration the significant increases in education spending over the past few years, the Minster said that there could be no excuse for delaying further decisions needed to make sure the Board lives within its budget.

Speaking earlier, Maria Eagle said: “Education spending in Northern Ireland stands at record levels with sizeable increases in funding. In the next two years alone we provided for an extra £130 million or an increase of 8.2% at a time when pupil numbers are falling. On top of this, I have already announced support from the Children and Young People’s package in the form of an additional £10 million being made available directly to schools this year and a further £10 million for extended schools. This Government’s commitment to education is clear – what we need now is local decision-making that ensures that children do not suffer.”

In March, the Board decided on a plan setting out how it would allocate its budget across its services however, since then, has failed to take the decisions necessary to give effect to that plan.

In a letter to the Chair of the Board, Rev Gary Haire, the Education Minister said that if the Board agrees a plan of action to allow it to deliver its statutory responsibilities within budget, it will be allowed to retain a sum of £1.18 million which was to have been repaid to her Department.

The Minister continued by saying that all public bodies are required to live within the resources allocated to them and the SEELB is no different.

She added that if the Board were to overspend again, the money would have to be found from other parts of the education budget and the Minister said that she was not prepared to let children in other Board areas suffer because of this Board’s refusal to take decisions.

Maria Eagle said: “Today I wrote to the Chair of that Board making clear my expectation that all Board members must discharge their responsibilities fully and take the decisions needed to ensure that the Board lives within its means. The Board proved itself able, in 2005/06, to live within budget and I expect it to do the same this year. Members must reach agreement at their July Board meeting on how they will deliver services within the budget provided. To do otherwise would be a dereliction of duty and would certainly not be in the best educational interests of children and young people.”

The Education Minister acknowledged that the Board had, for the first time in three years, kept within its agreed budget in 2005/06, and its accounts, which were submitted in mid-June, have in fact shown that it finished the year with £1.18 million unspent in its education services budget, which she is allowing the Board to carry forward to ease its financial position in 2006/07.

However, this is only on the condition that it shows that it is capable of taking the decisions necessary to deliver its services within budget.

(EF/SP)

Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

05 January 2022
Over 1 Million Rapid Lateral Flow Tests Delivered To NI
More than one million Rapid Lateral Flow Tests have been delivered into Northern Ireland in the past 48 hours with the additional tests reinforcing supplies available to the public. While there is currently very high demand for lateral flow tests across Northern Ireland, there is no shortage of tests, the Department of Health has said.
21 January 2022
Finance Minister Announces £151m Spending For NI
Finance Minister Conor Murphy has announced a total of £151.3 million in the January Monitoring Round, with over £40m allocated to the education sector. Other allocations include support for the transport sector, local councils, and funding for compensation for those impacted by the Avian Flu outbreak.
01 December 2021
Man Arrested Over Suspected Herbal Cannabis Find
A man, aged 23, has been arrested after police and customs officers seized suspected herbal cannabis worth an estimated value of over £1 million in Larne. The find was made after officers stopped a lorry in the Larne Harbour. The lorry and its trailer have been seized for further examination.
20 December 2019
Imprisoned Dads Give Special Gift To Children
Imprisoned dads at Hydebank Wood College have put together special packages to be delivered to their children in time for Christmas. Hydebank Wood in Belfast is a young offender's institution with inmates between the age of 18 and 21.
12 December 2019
Hundreds Run For NI Children's Hospice
Over 600 people walked, jogged and ran their way around Stormont Estate on Sunday 08 December for the Northern Ireland Children's Hospice Jingle 5k/10k event. The event is part of the charity's festive fundraising campaign, Jingle All the Way, which aims to raise £500,000 to give the gift of care to local children and their families.