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Adult and youth services to suffer

NON-STATUTIRY SERVICES As the teachers' pay round looms, a TES survey reveals that nearly half of local authorities in England and Wales expect schools to use their own money to avoid making staff redundant. Clare Dean opens a three-page report. Non-Statutory Services. Already strained budgets for adult education and the youth service, along with discretionary grants for students, will be once more hit heavily by councils desperate to balance the books. The non-statutory services are always first in the firing line.

In Shropshire, education officials are talking about stopping adult education and discretionary awards and are currently consulting heads and governors over the cuts.

Both Liverpool, facing an authority-wide budget cut of between Pounds 50 million and Pounds 60m, and Hampshire, which is having to cut Pounds 10m from education, are also targeting discretionary awards. Kent is looking to cut the youth service, adult education and school transport as well as discretionary awards.

Local authorities calculate that they need to spend Pounds 18,818m on education in the next financial year, but the Government has set aside only Pounds 17,204.4m. They are currently spending Pounds 17,880m.

Saxon Spence, chair of the Council of Local Education Authorities and education chair of the Association of County Councils, said: "With inflation levels already exceeding 2.5 per cent and the yet-to-be-announced teachers' pay award still to be taken into account, vital LEA services are at risk to an unprecedented degree."

Many local authorities are already drawing from reserves to keep services running. But with those reserves now heavily depleted, CLEA claimed councils would be unable to do the same for 1995-96.

It said that even if all councils spend up to their capping limit, a further Pounds 400m would have to be drawn from reserves to maintain a cash standstill - and that did not take into account the teachers' pay award, increased pupil numbers or inflation.

Ms Spence, who is a member of Devon County Council, said: "While the Department for Education budget goes up by more than 4 per cent, the budgets of youth and community services, nursery education and discretionary awards, already under strain, will be facing further cuts.

"Adult education, too, could suffer despite the scope for generating more income from increases in fee levels.

"And cuts in local government youth service budgets means cuts in financial support for voluntary youth providers."

She is now seeking an urgent meeting with Tim Boswell, the education minister, and assurances about the Government's commitment to youth and community education. "We have to ask: 'Is government really indifferent to the social education needs of young people or are these unintended consequences of its public expenditure policies?'" .

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