A senior Conservative backbencher has compared the proposed national funding formula for schools to the poll tax, and warned ministers he will vote against it.
Sir David Amess (pictured), MP for Southend West, was speaking in a debate in Parliament about funding for schools in Southend, Essex, this morning, in which neighbouring Tory MP James Duddridge (Rochford and Southend East) also pledged to oppose the reforms if they were not changed.
A public consultation on the national funding formula, which the government says will ensure that similar schools in different areas are treated in the same way, ends on March 22.
Sir David told schools minister Nick Gibb that the proposed changes “would be likely to have a devastating impact on every school in Southend West”.
He said Southend was only one of four local authorities where every school would lose out.
'I'm not going to mess about'
Speaking in Westminster Hall, Sir David said: “Let there be no doubt: if the proposed changes go ahead I shall vote against the measure needed to bring them in—and we have a majority of only 11. I am not going to mess about on the issue.”
Telling Mr Gibb that he wanted to “gently” make a point, Sir David said that because ministers had listened to civil service advice about how to introduce the poll tax, “eventually the policy resulted in the removal from office of the greatest politician I have ever known”.
He added: “I do not want the new funding formula to end up like the community charge.”
Sir David added that the reduction of funding had the “potential to raise unemployment, poverty and deprivation in the longer term”, and risk a teacher recruitment crisis and schools closing in his constituency.
He called for the government to increase basic per-pupil funding – and include an area cost adjustment which takes into account the higher costs of living in some areas – to recognise “the demographic needs of Southend”.
Responding, Mr Gibb said the government would “look to change our proposals where the evidence shows clearly that the balance needs to shift”.
He said the national funding formula would end the “postcode lottery” in school funding that sees a wide range of funding levels in different areas.
Mr Gibb also told the Southend MPs that the formula would use a broader definition for deprivation funding than the town currently uses, so children who may not qualify for free school meals but who still face barriers to their education would benefit.
He added: “We know that some areas and schools will disagree with the balance we have struck in the proposals. That will be the case particularly in areas where the proposed national funding formula will mean a lower level of funding than the current baseline for 2016-17, such as in Southend.
“We are keen to hear views on whether we have got that balance right and welcome any additional evidence through the consultation.”