Beleaguered LAs hit back at critics

18th June 2010 at 01:00
Councils deny waste and inefficiency in school funds distribution and defend their record

Local authorities have launched a fight-back against mounting criticism that they waste money that should go to the school front line.

Teaching unions and academics have accused them of being inefficient and called for them to be stripped of their funding distribution role.

The recent review of education spending by Pricewaterhouse-Coopers (PwC) also met with disapproval from some quarters for not tackling what critics see as problems with Wales's 22 local authorities.

But Chris Llewellyn, director of education for the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA), denied the charge that council education departments were taking cash away from learners.

"Local government is more effective than any other sector at getting the funding through to the front lines," Mr Llewellyn said.

"It's a myth that local authorities are slicing money away. In ten of the last 12 years local government has spent more on education than it gets from the Assembly government.

"There's more to it than just the teacher in the classroom; there are many functions that enable teaching and learning to take place.

"If you fund schools directly, you would have 1,800 headteachers who are directors of education. You don't want to be in the position where every school has to organise their own transport and meals."

The PWC report revealed that almost one-third of Wales's pound;4.5 billion annual education budget fails to reach the front line, and only 44 per cent - pound;1.8 billion - goes directly to schools to spend on teaching and learning.

It also showed that local authorities retained almost pound;560 million of education funding last year.

The report recommended setting up regional consortia to run schools and merging education administration on a regional basis, but shied away from wholesale reform.

Several teaching unions have told TES Cymru that the only way to increase the flow of cash to the classroom is to address the disparities caused by Wales having such a high number of councils.

Mr Llewellyn said: "Authorities are responding to calls to work together more on a regional level. They are recognising that there are areas where things don't need to happen 22 times. It's an imperfect system but let's make that system work."

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