Broken promises and tough decisions

13th February 1998 at 00:00
Case study 1: Lincolnshire

Lincolnshire, for its size and population, would normally expect to get 1 per cent of any extra Government money for education. The Chancellor's Budget promise of Pounds 1 billion for the nation's schools should, therefore, have meant a cash boost of Pounds 10 million for the county.

"I expected to have this money winging its way here by now in Pounds 1 coins but for some reason we have only Pounds 1.2m extra," said Norman Riches, the chief education officer. "I would dearly love someone to explain this to me.

"Because education forms about 65 per cent of the county's total spending, we will expect to put about Pounds 800,000 of this money directly into the service."

Lincolnshire will be spending Pounds 3.1m more on education this year than last - a real-terms cut, said Mr Riches, because a Pounds 7m increase was needed to keep pace with inflation.

Education chiefs are warning schools of a 2.5 per cent drop in their budgets, leading to possible job losses among teachers and larger class sizes.

The county is also reorganising its education department with a likely loss of up to 20 posts, including senior officers.

Other savings will include Pounds 500,000 from special needs, and a Pounds 250,000 cut in discretionary awards.

Mr Riches said: "We have always prided ourselves on maintaining discretionary awards when other authorities were cutting back. This is a largely rural county and we were conscious of disenfranchising sections of the community from further and higher education. However, it is unlikely we will be able to keep the current level going."

Free music tuition will also become a thing of the past, with pupils expected to pay up to Pounds 200,000 in charges in the coming year.

"We will try to protect schools' budgets as far as we can but many difficult decisions will have to be made in the coming weeks," Mr Riches said. "I am disappointed that the Pounds 1bn promise made by Gordon Brown does not appear to have materialised."

Dorothy Lepkowska

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