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61 councils top-slicing school budgets

MP highlights the impact of axing the £600m Education Services Grant, which paid for a range of school support services

Layla Moran

MP highlights the impact of axing the £600m Education Services Grant, which paid for a range of school support services

More than one in three councils are being forced to divert money from frontline school budgets to replace an axed government fund, it has emerged.

Figures show the impact this year of cutting the Education Services Grant (ESG), which previously paid for a range of school support services.

Sixty-one councils are now top-slicing school budgets to compensate for the loss, school standards minister Nick Gibb has admitted.

The figures were revealed following a written parliamentary question by Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Layla Moran.

Ms Moran asked ministers how many councils were now taking money out of the Dedicated Schools Grant – the main pot of school funding money – in order to provide support services which used to be paid for by the ESG. 

Mr Gibb's answer listed 61 local authorities funding services through “maintained school budget shares" in 2018-19.

Ms Moran told Tes the figures showed how local authorities were having to ask schools to give up some of their budget to be able to provide them with “vital support functions such as human resources, financial monitoring and asbestos management".

'Far-reaching cuts'

Councils that have not top-sliced this schools funding will have had to "make cuts from vital public services elsewhere from within their budgets", Ms Moran said.

Taking money from school budgets to pay for services has to be approved by local area schools forums, which make decisions on funding allocations in their authority areas.

Ms Moran said: “This new data reveals just how far-reaching the effect of these cuts to council budgets have been.

"Councils from across the country – through no fault of their own – are being forced by the government to choose between taking money from frontline school budgets or from other vital public services.

“The money added to the core schools budget after the election is being paid for by cuts elsewhere, such as money for new PE facilities, school buildings and other central programmes. Meanwhile, schools wait to learn whether teachers will be given a pay rise next year and whether they or the government will be paying for it.”

Plans to scrap the £600 million ESG were announced in 2015.

At the time, the Local Government Association warned that it would leave councils with little means to pay for vital school services such as education welfare, school improvement, admissions, HR, early years, exam validation, recruitment and transport.

A DfE spokeswoman said: “As announced at the 2015 Spending Review, we took the difficult decision to release savings from the unprotected education budget in order to protect the core schools budget, and it was decided that the Education Services Grant would cease from September 2017.

“Despite this, by 2020, core school funding will rise to a record £43.5 billion – the highest ever – and 50 per cent more per pupil in real terms than in 2000.”

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