Schools Budget 2014/2015
- Meeting of Budget Meeting, Cabinet, Wednesday, 12th February 2014 6.15 p.m. (Item 147.)
- View the background to item 147.
Councillor Tony Smith, Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services, presented the report of the Director of Children’s Services, which recommended the approval of a Schools Budget 2014/2015 of £240,058,000 for early years, maintained schools, academies, colleges and providers in Wirral. The Budget had been considered by the Wirral Schools Forum on 22 January 2014 (minute 269 refers), who had agreed the following recommendations –
· The Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) funded Schools Budget for maintained schools and academies be approved in the sum of £240,058,000.
· The headroom of £1,215,100 be allocated within the formula to all schools and early years providers.
· The High Needs Contingency totalling £908,900 be agreed.
· A reduction for Planned Programmed Maintenance (PPM) of £200,000 be agreed.
· The use of DSG reserves totalling £732,000 in setting the schools budget be agreed and the remaining balance for Automatic Meter Readers be reclassified as a reserve for installation of defibrillators.
The Schools Funding Allocations were issued by the Department for Education on 18 December 2013 and the basis of the grant continued to be the ”Spend Plus” methodology introduced in 2006, with four unringfenced spending blocks for each authority, which indicated the levels of expenditure anticipated for each authority.
In the case of the Schools and the Early Years blocks, they were updated for changes in pupil numbers. Pupil numbers for the Schools Block were those recorded in the October 2013 census, whereas Early Years Funding was a combination of the census in January 2014 and January 2015. The dates for the Early Years Census meant that the exact DSG would not be finalised until June 2015 and the Early Years grant used for the purposes of the 2014/2015 Schools Budget would be the indicative figures (based on January 2013). The High Needs Block provided an allocation for the funding of all High Needs Students aged 0 – 24, including the Hospital School and the Other Block was in respect of Free Education for 2 year olds.
The report outlined significant Budget changes in each area and referred also to the use of reserves and centrally held budgets. A number of budget savings options for 2014/2015 arising from working in partnership with schools had been progressed, in relation to –
· Planned Programme Maintenance
· School Crossing Patrols
· Non Teaching Trade Union Facility Time
· Private Finance Initiative (PFI) Affordability Gap
Councillor Smith referred specifically to funding for the Schools PFI. He commented that the Council currently added £2.6m to the ring fenced schools budget in respect of the PFI funding gap. £2.3m of the funding was an agreed saving in 2015/2016 and the remainder had been protected. However, he proposed that the Council funding for PFI be reduced by £600,000 in 2014/2015 rather than 2015/2016.
He stated that the 2014/2015 Schools Budget had already been submitted to the Education Funding Agency (EFA) and was finalised. However, there was approximately a £1m schools budget carry forward from 2013/2014, which could be used to ‘compensate’ for the £600,000 funding gap. Schools would therefore receive the same budget for 2014/2015 as planned.
In response to a query in relation to the potential impact on the budget of the outstanding call-ins (i) of the decision to consult upon the proposed closure of Lyndale School (minute 129 (16 January 2014) refers); and (ii) Proposals for Changes to School Top Up Payments for Students with High Needs (minute 140 (16 January 2014) refers), the Head of Legal and Member Services reported that the proposed Schools Budget, included a contingency provision that was considered sufficient to address any financial implications that may arise as a result of the forthcoming call in hearing. The proposed Schools Budget enabled the Policy and Performance Co-ordinating Committee to consider the call-ins, particularly the one related to the ‘Proposals for changes to the School Top Up Payments for Students with High Needs’ to be considered. Consideration had been given to the outstanding call-ins; however, the proposed Schools Budget was sufficient to meet any financial implications arising directly from the call-ins and still provide an adequate contingency for other unforeseen events.
(1) That the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) funded Schools Budget for maintained schools and academies be approved in the sum of£240,058,000.
(2) That the headroom of £1,215,100 be allocated within the formula to all schools and early years providers.
(3) That the High Needs Contingency totalling £908,900 be agreed.
(4) The use of DSG reserves totalling £732,000 in setting the schools budget be agreed and the remaining balance for Automatic Meter Readers be reclassified as a reserve for installation of defibrillators.
(5) That Council regrets that due to its financial challenges, it is unable to fund the full PFI affordability gap in 2014/2015 and will reduce the Council contribution to the Schools Budget by £600,000 to £2m. Officers are instructed to take appropriate actions in respect of the 2014/2015 Schools Budget.