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Extra pound;1.8bn for education;News;News amp; Opinion

EDUCATION authorities are to get an extra pound;1.8 billion next year, the Government has announced.

Most of the money will be needed to cover inflation, the rise in pupil numbers and the additional cost of government initiatives. But the package includes pound;64 million of new money and the bulk of it will be channelled into supporting schools.

The Government has allocated an extra pound;50m for schools and will be consulting shortly on how the money should be distributed.

Ministers have also pumped pound;14m into the Excellence in Cities initiative running in inner London, Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield, Rotherham, Birmingham, Knowsley, Liverpool, Manchester and Salford.

And they have taken steps to reduce the pressure on school budgets next year by rescheduling an increase in employers' contributions for teachers' pensions which will cost authorities pound;90m.

Education Secretary David Blunkett hailed the settlement as "very good" for the authorities.

But he said: "It remains vital that the amounts delegated to schools rise significantly and the additional provision which we have made available is actually spent on education."

Councils will have to cut the amount of cash spent in town and county halls to less than pound;75 per pupil in London and pound;65 per pupil elsewhere.

Every local authority will have to delegate at least 80 per cent of its local schools budget and, as a minimum, achieve a 6 per cent increase in delegated funding per pupil.

The exceptions will be those authorities which already delegate more than 85 per cent. Their increase will be a minimum 5 per cent.

"I will expect to see those authorities delegating less than 80 per cent to increase their delegation substantially in the next year or I shall use my powers to insist that more is passed on to schools," said Mr Blunkett.

He confirmed that councils would be getting a special grant for teachers' pay following the Green Paper on "modernising" the profession. The service development fund will contribute pound;150m to this grant in 2000-1 and any extra costs will be covered by central Government.

The Local Government Association said that although education was receiving an above-average increase compared with other services, it would be taken up by rises in pupil numbers, teachers' pay and government initiatives.

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