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Councils' relief at inflation-only rise

THIS year's inflation-rate pay rise may be bad news for teachers, but many local authorities will be breathing a sigh of relief.

The decision to raise salaries by only 2.9 per cent is less than the 3.5 to 4 per cent most councils have budgeted for. With the extra increase in London salaries, the overall teachers' pay bill will rise by 3.25 per cent.

This should help several authorities that had threatened to make teachers redundant this year. As national increases in education funding fail to find their way into schools' budgets many are facing cutbacks.

Medway council has warned that more than 100 teachers could lose their jobs because it is facing a pound;7 million budget shortfall this year.

It claims it needs an extra pound;12m to cover inflation, extra national insurance contributions and the Government's decision to withdraw funding from a number of initiatives. But ministers have promised only a pound;5m increase.

Medway's calculations assumed teachers' pay would rise by 3.5 per cent. But today's lower figure will save it less than pound;1m.

Chris Lack, assistant director of education, said: "A rise of less than 3.5 per cent is good news in purely budgetary terms, even if it is less good for teachers and schools' attempts to recruit and retain staff.

"What it will not do is make a huge difference to our overall situation."

In Plymouth, schools have been told that the education budget will be pound;2.6m short, even if council tax is increased by 17.5 per cent. The city's large secondary schools face pound;200,000 cuts.

Around a quarter of England's 150 education authorities will see increases of only 3.2 per cent per pupil. Meanwhile, schools face a raft of costly proposals to cut teachers' workloads.

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