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Tighter control on cash

Councils could come under more pressure from schools to stick to Welsh Assembly government targets for education spending, because of the early publication of key data.

Next month, for the first time, ministers will release their assessments of how much each council should be spending on things like education and social services at the same time as authorities are given their budgets for 2005-6.

Some Assembly funding has to be spent on specific initiatives, such as free breakfasts for primary pupils. Councils then decide how to divide the rest of the cash.

But having the Assembly's figures in advance will give heads, governors and other representatives a chance to challenge councillors' and officers'

decisions before local budgets are finalised.

Jane Davidson, education and lifelong learning minister, said at the National Union of Teachers Cymru's annual meeting in Cardiff last weekend:

"School forums and others will be able to comment on the proposed local authority education budgets in light of the published assessment figures.

"They will help to inform dialogue about the adequacy of local authorities'

plans for education and other service budgets."

The move was hailed as a step towards lifting the "funding fog" in Wales.

Rhys Williams, NUT Cymru's political officer, said: "The figures are coming out in December, allowing input into budget forums and discussions on LEA and school budgets."

Brian Rowlands, secretary of the Secondary Heads' Association Cymru, said:

"It will help us to judge if authorities are putting the right amount into education."

A spokesman for the Welsh Local Government Association also welcomed the move. But he warned that variations in spending were to be expected in Wales's devolved system of government.

LEAs overall are spending more on education than the Assembly says they should.

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