More earmarked funding

11th July 1997 at 01:00
'Targets, targets, targets' appears to be the Government's new mantra. In a three-page report The TES examines David Blunkett's grand plan which was unveiled earlier this week.

One of the consequences of the "top-down" management style set out in the White Paper could be a big increase in earmarked grants to local authorities, at least while programmes are getting off the ground.

For instance, the key aim of raising standards of literacy and numeracy depends on money finding its way both directly into schools and into the local authorities, so that they can support their schools with information and advice.

But, as Tony Travers points out on page 9, perhaps half of the extra Pounds 835 million for English education announced in last week's Budget is likely to go on the next teachers' pay award. Also, the money is not "ring-fenced" and councils could divert it to other services.

That is why education ministers, with local authorities' support, plan to protect school initiatives by increasing the amount of education cash distributed through the Grants for Education Support and Training (GEST) programme.

This year, the programme amounts to some Pounds 300m. Graham Lane, who chairs the education committee of the Local Government Association, wants that increased to Pounds 450m in 1998-99, by "top-slicing" a bigger share of school spending before it finds its way into the general local government pot.

The Government, however, seems more likely to raise the total to Pounds 360m.

The Government also proposes to change the balance of funding for the GEST programme next year. Where it now contributes 60 per cent of the total cost of projects, local authorities and government will in future share the cost equally. This means that the Government money would cover more projects - and influence a bigger share of local spending.

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