Cuts may hit Budget bonus shareout

The Scottish Office this week confirmed The TES Scotland forecast two weeks ago+ of how the extra #163;204.7 million for education announced in the Budget is + to be distributed to individual councils.Brian Wilson, the Education Minister,+ acknowledged that this represented only a start to make good the shortfall in + educational spending but said it was "serious money to address serious + challenges".Directors of education, however, have expressed fears that the + benefits could be wiped out by next year's spending reductions. John Stodter, + director in Aberdeen, said the city's finance officials estimate cuts of + #163;20 million. Donald Gorrie, Liberal Democrat education spokesman, + described the money as "a drop in the ocean". The lion's share of #163;115.7 + million in capital expenditure will go to improving the school building stock + where an accumulated backlog is estimated at #163;200 million in repairs and + maintenance. The sum will also be used to improve facilities for information + technology and is to be spread over the next five years. The first tranche of + #163;8.9 million must be spent in this financial year, followed by #163;26.7 + million in each of the ensuing four years.All councils will have access to this+ cash under the local government spending formula, ranging this year from just + over #163;1 million for Glasgow to #163;57,000 for Orkney. It is, uniquely + for capital expenditure, to be paid as a specific grant, requiring regulations + to be laid before Parliament. The extra money includes #163;59 million as a + one-off payment in 1998-99 for general revenue spending. A Scottish Office + spokeswoman confirmed earlier indications that this element is to be spent on + "raising school standards", which have yet to be defined, but can also be used+ for IT and school buildings. There is no indication that the revenue + allocation is to be ring-fenced but councils will be expected to account for + how they spend the money. A circular this week stated: "The Secretary of State + will be keen to be able to identify what has been made possible by these + funds."The circular said the #163;59 million should help councils make + "significant progress" towards implementing the Government's priorities. "The + Secretary of State wishes to ensure that these resources have maximum impact in+ the classroom," it adds. But the Scottish Office stresses that, while the + early years are among those priorities, the money announced this week is + additional to the #163;24 million early intervention grant it has allocated + over three years to boost literacy and numeracy standards in primary 1 and + primary 2.The announcement also covers an extra #163;30 million to be made + available to councils for next year only. Half will be distributed normally to + encourage authorities to "spend to save", while the remainder will be a + "sweetener" for a limited number of councils that want to close schools but + need to invest in others to win over parents. Applications for "rationalisation+ support", most of which is likely to go to Glasgow, have to be in by September+ 30.The circular says councils should target capital allocations on buildings + in poor condition, replacing outside toilets and other external accommodation, + and adapting buildings for educational use such as pre-school provision. It + suggests councils should carry out a systematic survey of their school building+ stock.l Savings on an island causeway project may hold the key to making extra+ money available for a new school if the Western Isles Council agrees. The + Education Minister said that an unexpectedly lower tender price for the link to+ Berneray has freed more than #163;1 million which could be spent on a new + two-year secondary school at Lochs in Lewis.The previous government allocated + #163;3.2 million which would have allowed a new primary building in the area + to go ahead and four existing schools to close. But this was not enough the + replace the secondary department.

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