No Budget bonanza for schools

Neil Munro

Councils' room for manoeuvre on school spending looked as restricted as ever this week, despite the Secretary of State's insistence that he would be providing additional resources for education. A TES Scotland survey last week revealed that education authorities were preparing for o100 million in cuts.

The Scottish Office post-Budget statements on Scotland's o14.3 billion public spending block, which includes o5.4 billion in Government support for local authority spending, gave no details on individual services. A spokesman was unable to say whether extra funding promised for education would be for schools only.

This contrasts with the specific information available from the Department for Education and Employment south of the border, where schools are pledged an extra o830 million while spending on universities and colleges is set to rise by o280 million over two years. Raymond Robertson, the Scottish Education Minister, has already hinted that higher education may be temporarily relieved of its obligation to make "efficiency gains".

The Scottish Secretary said this week that he would allow council spending to rise by o132 million or 2.2 per cent next year but Government support would only rise by o60 million. Keith Geddes, president of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, dismissed this as "a sleight of hand" that would lead to service cuts and council tax rises.

Education authority leaders will now have to juggle their budgets to finance pay settlements and find the money for extra burdens imposed by central government.

Councils estimate that they will have to find an extra o28 million for new items next year: o8 million for Higher Still, o6 million for staff training, o3 million for school transport safety, o3 million for the Children Act, o3 million for devolved school management, o1 million for primary modern languages and o1 million for nursery voucher administration.

Information technology, repairs and maintenance, special needs

and school management will add a further o3 million.

These figures exclude the costs of school security which is the subject of ongoing correspondence between Mr Geddes and George Kynoch, the local government minister. Councils have scoffed at informal Scottish Office estimates of o3 million a year for three years. Mr Kynoch has asked the authorities to come up with a more realistic figure than the o38 million they have been touting.

Some o60 million is being allocated for school security costs in England over the next three years, three-quarters of which will be supported by Government grant.

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