Council row over school cash cuts

Public meeting with MP John Mann to discuss Bassetlaw Hospital clinical services review information. Mr Mann at the meeting. (w110115-1c)
Public meeting with MP John Mann to discuss Bassetlaw Hospital clinical services review information. Mr Mann at the meeting. (w110115-1c)

NOTTS County Council has hit back at claims made by Bassetlaw MP John Mann that it had ‘forced through’ ‘devastating’ funding cuts to the county’s primary schools.

Last week in his Worksop Guardian column, Mr Mann quoted figures which indicated several local primary schools would have their annual funding slashed by tens of thousands of pounds each from 2013.

NEAA 30-05-12 BE 2 Cllr Philip Owen at Nuthall roundabout

NEAA 30-05-12 BE 2 Cllr Philip Owen at Nuthall roundabout

The numbers were leaked from a modelling exercise conducted by Notts County Council, to predict the possible impact of changes to the way it allocates school funding.

From April 2013 all local authorities will have to redistribute schools funding using a new formula, under rules dictated by the Government.

The rules say school funding should be matched more closely to individual pupils, which will result in a loss for some schools, and a gain for others.

“Small schools in particular would struggle to survive without a top-up known as a ‘lump sum’ which the Government requires be paid to all schools, irrespective of their size or type,” said Coun Philip Owen, Notts County Council’s committee chairman for children and young people’s services.

He explained that the council had agreed to increase the lump sum from £89,000 to £100,000, following recommendations from the Schools Forum - a group of representatives, mainly headteachers, which has worked closely with the council on the funding formula reform.

Coun Owen said this, along with a £2million ‘transition package’ from the council’s budget, meant that no school in Notts would face a reduction in 2013/14, unless it had fewer pupils. He added that John Mann had ‘completely misrepresented the council’s decision on the complex issue of school funding’.

But the Bassetlaw MP denied the accusation, saying he was sticking up for local schools unhappy with the changes.

He held a private meeting last Friday night at The Crossing in Worksop where teachers and school representatives gathered to oppose the funding cuts.

“This is not about saving money, it is shifting money around, away from our village schools and into the bigger schools in Nottingham,” Mr Mann told the Worksop Guardian.

“The lump sum and transition package are just temporary measures, whereas this funding formula is permanent.”

“In the long term, teachers will be lost and schools may be forced to close.”

“It is totally impossible to predict which ones. The amount of funding schools will get depends on circumstance - how many children are born in any one year and end up in a certain year group, and how many families move out of the area.”

“We’re calling on the decision to be reversed in next year’s budget and we will have meetings with the Government and the county council in the new year. None of the primary schools on the Schools Forum voted for this, and certainly not any here in Bassetlaw.”

See page seven for Coun Owen’s full response to Mr Mann.