More than 60 councils have been given permission to top-slice money from school budgets to make up for cuts to a central government grant.
Councils stopped receiving the education services grant (ESG) last September, and the 2018-19 financial year is the first without transitional funding in place to soften the blow.
The money town halls received via the ESG to fulfil their legal obligations such as school place planning has been replaced in the form of a “central school services block” in the dedicated schools grant. This covers councils’ statutory duties for both maintained schools and academies.
But the general funding element of the ESG, which covered extra services specifically for maintained schools like legal costs and improvement services, is no longer paid, leaving schools to foot the bill.
Now the government has revealed that 61 councils have been given permission by their schools forums to top-slice money from maintained school budgets from this April, to cover those non-statutory duties previously paid-for by the ESG.
The councils were named this week by Nick Gibb, the schools minister, in response to a question from Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Layla Moran.
“The general funding rate of the ESG was only for the responsibilities that local authorities held for their maintained schools,” explained Gibb.
“Local authorities can fund services from the maintained school budget shares, with the agreement of the maintained school members of the schools forum, to meet these responsibilities.”
The government announced its plans to scrap the ESG at the 2015 spending review in order to save £600 million, prompting warnings that councils would struggle to support schools. Earlier this year, it was revealed that academies would lose £353 million by 2020 as a result of the cut.
A Department for Education spokesperson said it had taken the “difficult decision” to cut the ESG “in order to protect the core schools budget”.
The list of councils given permission to top-slice is as follows
Blackburn with Darwen
Telford and Wrekin
Newcastle upon Tyne
Isle of Wight
Redcar and Cleveland
Kingston upon Hull