The Guardian is reporting that Conservative council leaders are warning they face a £600m black hole in budgets to improve struggling schools after the government last week pulled the plug on its education bill.
With council budgets already under severe pressure after years of austerity, some say they may need maintained schools to contribute from their own shrinking budgets, while others may be forced to cut support services they provide to local schools, leaving them vulnerable to decline.
Local authorities – including Conservative-run county councils in Kent, Hampshire and Buckinghamshire – say they have been left in limbo by the government’s axing of educational services grants worth £600m ahead of passing the bill that would have curtailed the role of local authorities in maintaining community schools in England.
But the demise, announced to parliament by education secretary Justine Greening last Thursday, of the education for all bill, means councils will still be legally required to run school improvement services next year and meet other costs, such as maternity cover for teachers, but without funding from central government.
Martin Tett, the Conservative leader of Buckinghamshire county council, condemned the government’s failure to coordinate its funding and support for the many state schools that have not become academies.
“What we now have is a situation where the grant is being removed but the responsibilities will remain, particularly the statutory responsibility with regard to school improvement. And councils at the moment – particularly upper-tier councils, like county councils – are very financially stretched,” Tett said.
What do you think can be done to help councils with the funding taken away from the education bill? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter. ~ Sophie
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