LAs pledge to stop hanging on to pound;600m
Local authorities have promised to stop holding on to education funding and hand over more cash to schools, TES Cymru can reveal.
The Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) and Wales's 22 councils have said they will increase delegation rates to 80 per cent within two years and to 85 per cent within four years.
There was anger earlier this year when figures revealed that average delegation rates had fallen to a record low of 74.8 per cent, down from 81 per cent in 200203.
It means that almost pound;600 million is being retained by local authorities - described by one academic as "educational lunacy".
The pledge was made in the WLGA's response to education minister Leighton Andrews' "summer challenge" in which he asked the sector to suggest ways of moving more money to schools, colleges and universities.
Although the responses have not been published, TES Cymru has seen the WLGA's letter to the minister.
It said: "The WLGA recognises that the current level of delegation needs to be increased from the average level for Wales, which is currently 75 per cent. The WLGA recognises that, where possible, decisions about funding need to take local circumstances into account and be close to the point of delivery."
Directors of education and education cabinet members from Wales's 22 local authorities are set to hold talks on 19 November.
WLGA education director Chris Llewellyn told TES Cymru it "must be possible" for most councils to delegate at least 80 per cent of their education budgets to schools.
He said: "We are trying to see if there are lessons that can be learnt and whether there is good practice out there that can be shared to shift more resources to the front line."
However, he claimed: "In most cases, schools would prefer to see these things handled by the local authority. Delegation rates are as they are because of local agreements - it makes sense for some services to be provided at a higher level."
But Gareth Jones, secretary of heads' union ASCL Cymru, said secondary schools in particular would welcome greater control over their budgets. "A top-down approach doesn't always work," he said. "You also get far greater value for money when schools are the purchasers of services rather than local authorities."
TES Cymru understands that Mr Andrews put huge pressure on the WLGA to address the situation. The minister recently launched a scathing attack on local authorities for underperforming and for "dragging their feet" over collaboration. A taskforce is currently examining whether some services can be taken out of local authority control.
- Original headline: LAs pledge to stop hanging on to pound;600m of school cash