Stop Short-changing Our Schools cry Oldham Liberal Democrats

The Leader of the Opposition and Liberal Democrat Group Leader on Oldham Council, Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, has written to the Cabinet Member for Education, Councillor Amanda Chadderton, and the Director of Education, Andrew Sutherland, condemning a decision by Oldham Council to withhold a 0.5% grant increase given by the Government from a majority of schools across the Borough, and to ask for it to be restored.

Councillor Sykes explained: “The Education Secretary announced that a new national funding formula for schools will be introduced in the 2020/21 financial year, and in advance of that a further £1.3 billion would be provided in Government funding to schools over the next two years to provide them with some financial stability during the transition period.”

“This money was transferred by the Government into one of the accounts managed by Oldham Council, the so-called Schools Block.  Unfortunately Oldham Council has decided to withhold some of this grant money to offset the deficit it has in one of its other education accounts, namely the High Needs Block.  The money being denied to schools amounts to £1.87 million.”

Councillor Sykes believes that 51 schools out of 98 will lose out, including all those schools in Shaw and Crompton. “This is cash schools were expecting and is much needed,” he added.

“At a time when many schools are feeling the squeeze to have this money withdrawn must feel like another blow inflicted by a penny-pinching Council playing the role of Christmas Scrooge,” stated Councillor Sykes.

“The Government clearly intended this money to be passed on to local schools for the benefit of local pupils, not squirrelled away by a Council trying to cover up its own so called financial management of the High Needs account by robbing Peter to pay Paul, he added.  “I want the Council to stop short-changing our local schools, play fair by the funding formula, and pass the money along.”

The email sent to Councillor Chadderton and Andrew Sutherland.

Dear Cllr Chadderton and Mr Sutherland,

Prior to the introduction of a new National Funding Formula for education in the 2020/21 financial year, the Secretary of State for Education has confirmed that £1.3 billion will be made available for schools over the next two years to provide some ‘financial stability’ during the transition.

I understand that local schools have recently been consulted about a proposal by this Council to withhold £1.87 million of this grant money, held in the Schools Block, to off-set part of the deficit in another education fund managed by Oldham Council, the High Needs Block.

My understanding is that the High Needs Block has an expected £4.14 million deficit in-year and an expected cumulative deficit of £7.8 million to the end of the current financial year.

This is frightening enough, prompting the question how did this situation get so out of hand, but £1.87 million will not eliminate the deficit and it is not what this money was intended for.

My understanding is that 51 schools out of 98 in this Borough would lose out as a result of this decision, including all of the schools in Shaw and Crompton.  This is cash schools were expecting and is much needed.

This is simply not acceptable – local schools are already feeling the pinch in their budgets and the Government clearly intended this money to be passed on to local schools for the benefit of local pupils.

If Oldham Council does not want to play the role of a penny-pinching Council Christmas Scrooge, I would suggest that Cabinet does the decent thing, plays fair and passes the money along.

Many thanks in anticipation.

Councillor Howard Sykes MBE

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