LEAs hold £590m in funds says Clarke

Education Secretary Charles Clarke has published figures that show Local Education Authorities in England have £590 million in funding that has yet to be allocated to schools.

The figures show that a fifth of LEAs have more than £5 million to allocate to schools budgets in some areas.

However, head teachers at a National Association of Schoolteachers conference in York dismissed the government figures as a "smokescreen" to hide a funding black hole in the education budget for the next two years. They hit out at a cash crisis that was threatening to lead to staff redundancies.

David Hart, General Secretary NAHT, said: “The Government funding statement is a smokescreen designed to divert attention from its responsibility for this year’s financial crisis.

"I am all in favour of local authorities giving the maximum money to schools and certainly there are some that have failed their schools, but the government’s attempt to pass the buck to LEAs, and to paint them as the villain of the piece, simply won’t wash".

He said the Government’s figures for this year were wildly inaccurate, under-estimating salary costs and a number of other revenue costs: "Far from there being a £250 million gap between resources provided for schools, and their massive cost increases, schools nationally are in deficit".

NAHT estimates that schools this year are in debt nationally to the tune of over £200 million.

The figures produced by the government's Department for Education and Skills analysis is based on preliminary figures Local Education Authorities (LEAs) have provided in their own budget statements.

Announcing the figures Mr Clarke said "The purpose of this exercise is not to apportion blame but to solve problems".

He said that the Department would be writing to all LEAs asking questions about their spending decisions and their impact on schools.

The Secretary of State will then consider what changes to make to budget arrangements for 2004-05.

He said: "We want to work with LEAs - and for LEAs to work with schools - to ensure that schools get the full benefit of the extra government investment in education."

The figures revealed large variations between the budget increases of individual schools in many LEAs - some schools were getting 10% more funding than other schools in the same authority.

Mr Clarke added that despite a significant increase in education funding it has been a difficult year with a number of major changes in the funding arrangements for LEAs and schools.

"However, the emerging pattern of spending decisions does raise big questions regarding the amount of money that has not yet reached schools.

"I want every LEA to look closely at their spending plans and their unallocated budgets in particular to ensure that the maximum possible amount is given to individual schools without delay."


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