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LGA calls for government to reverse £600m school grants cuts

A proposed cut to the Education Services Grant (ESG) should be reversed so that councils can carry out their duties in supporting schools, the LGA has said.

The government is planning to cut £600m from the grant, which currently involves spending of around £815m a year, from August 2017.

It covers areas including education welfare, school improvement, admissions, HR, early years, exam validation, recruitment and transport.

Cllr Richard Watts, chair of the LGA's children and young people board, said: “The government has been clear that councils will have a continuing role in school place planning, school admissions and protecting the needs of the most vulnerable children, including those with special educational needs and disabilities. Councils need sufficient funding and powers to discharge these vital responsibilities.

“This includes reserve powers in support of their place planning and vulnerable pupil responsibilities to direct schools of all types, if voluntary agreement cannot be reached.”

He added that there was not enough “capacity within the system” for the withdrawal of funding.

“The £600m proposed cut to the ESG should be reversed to maintain improvement capacity within the schools system. This will benefit both council-maintained schools and academies,” Cllr Watts stated.

The government has expressed that support will be available through teaching school alliances, multi-academy trusts and regional schools commissioners. However, the LGA argues this was not yet geographically comprehensive and did not have the “track record of success” councils have in delivering services.

The LGA has previously warned that government proposals to convert all schools into academies, which have now been abandoned, could undermine councils’ finances and the oversight role for local schools.

The County Councils Network has also warned that the cuts will leave councils with no funds for school improvement and amount to “back door academisation”.

PSE contacted the Department for Education for a comment, but did not receive a response at the time of publication.

16 November UPDATE

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We have protected the core schools budget so that, as pupil numbers increase, so will the amount of money for our schools – in 2016-17 that will total over £40 billion, the highest on record. Our fairer funding proposals will ensure that areas with the highest need attract the most funding and end the historic unfairness in the system.

“We are making savings through the Education Services Grant as part of the need across government to help reduce the national deficit. Local authorities will not face a shortfall as they will be able to retain part of their schools budget to pay for the services they provide to maintained schools and savings to academy budgets will be phased over a period of time.”  

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