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Council accused of holding funds

A LOCAL authority was this week accused of using the Chancellor's extra cash for schools to subsidise its council tax.

Some schools in North Yorkshire face budget cuts for 2001-02, despite receiving up to pound;70,000 from Gordon Brown.

Heads fear that North Yorkshire is reducing its own funding to schools because it knows this will be offset by the direct Standards Grant payments.

The allegation is denied by the council, which says it is doing all it can to improve school budgets in the face of a real-terms cut in its own settlement from Whitehall.

North Yorkshire proposes to cut its schools' core budgets in real terms by 0.9 per cent this year.

Kevin McAleese, head of Harrogate grammar school, said that this reduction, plus extra costs of the teachers' pay award and changes to the sixth-form curriculum, cut his budget by pound;43,000 in real terms.

This was despite the school receiving pound;70,000 extra from the Government through the Standards Grant.

He suggested that the council could be cutting core budgets, knowing that schools could rely on the direct payments rom the Chancellor.

Copies of slides presented by North Yorkshire education director Cynthia Welbourn to headteachers last month, and seen by The TES, include the Standards Grant funding in schools' overall budgets for next year.

The funding is used to back a pledge from the council that there would be "no cuts in school budgets" this year.

Mr McAleese's claim has been backed by Harrogate MP Phil Willis, the Liberal Democrat education spokesman, who said: "North Yorkshire has the ability to raise council tax to meet the shortfall. They have chosen not to do it."

Ms Welbourn told The TES that the Standards Grant payments were not taken into account when schools' core budgets were set.

These figures had been included in presentations only to show schools their likely overall budgets next year. She added that schools' core budgets were being cut in real terms because the Government had failed to provide enough funding.

Council tax was rising by 6.9 per cent this year, and North Yorkshire faced a warning from the Government if it added to that figure.

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