Latest Public Sector News

26.08.16

Councils call for powers to prevent financial abuses in academies

Academies are at risk of financial fraud without better oversight, councils have said as they called for restoration of their powers over school finances.

The LGA said that it does not believe the Education Funding Agency (EFA) is capable of fulfilling its role of academy financing oversight.

Earlier this year, the National Audit Office’s annual report into the Department for Education’s (DfE’s) finances said that it was “failing” to come up “with a clear view of academies’ spending”.

Cllr Richard Watts, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, said: “The National Audit Office has raised serious concerns about the ability of the DfE to effectively monitor academy trusts’ spending, even before the planned expansion of the academy programme, and we don't believe it can possibly have effective oversight of spending in more than 20,000 schools. Centralising control of schools isn't working; oversight needs to be devolved down to local councils.

“With their experience in managing large budgets, knowledge of their local areas, and their reputation as the most efficient, transparent and trusted part of the public sector, councils are best placed to keep an eye on all school spending if they are given the power and resources to do so. Not only would this bring democratic accountability back into the process, it would make sure that the best interests of local children were protected.”

Back in May, the then education secretary Nicky Morgan was forced to back down on a plan to turn all schools into academies after widespread controversy, but a new Education for All Bill was then introduced intended to give the government new powers to turn the worst-performing schools into academies.

Scandals involving academy finance include the founder and two members of staff at Kings Science Academy in Bradford being found guilty of transferring £150,000 of DfE grants into their own bank accounts, and the payment of more than £1.3m to a third-party supplier without contracts at the Perry Beeches Academy Trust in Birmingham.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “All academies operate under a strict system of oversight and accountability – more robust than in council-run schools — ensuring any issues are identified quickly. Unlike other schools their accounts are scrutinised by an independent auditor and we have considerably more financial information about academies than we ever had for council-run schools.

“The academy programme puts control of running schools in the hands of teachers and school leaders - the people who know best how to run their schools. They also allow us to tackle underperformance far more swiftly than in a council-run system where many schools have been allowed to fail for years.”

Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become a PSE columnist? If so, click here.

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

related

public sector executive tv

more videos >

last word

Prevention: Investing for the future

Prevention: Investing for the future

Rob Whiteman, CEO at the Chartered Institute of Public Finance (CIPFA), discusses the benefits of long-term preventative investment. Rising demand, reducing resource – this has been the r more > more last word articles >

public sector focus

View all News

comment

Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

21/06/2019Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

Taking time to say thank you is one of the hidden pillars of a society. Bei... more >
How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

19/06/2019How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

Tom Chance, director at the National Community Land Trust Network, argues t... more >

interviews

Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

17/12/2018Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

It’s no secret that the public sector and its service providers need ... more >

the raven's daily blog

NSPCC: Working together to improve the support available for children who have been sexually abused

08/10/2019NSPCC: Working together to improve the support available for children who have been sexually abused

Hayley Clark, the acting head of development and impact at the NSPCC, talks about the significant gap in support services for children who have been sexually abused and the Ho... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

editor's comment

25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this feeling of imminent change than the article James Palmer, mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, has penned for us on p28. In it, he highlights... read more >