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Recovery action plan to be drawn up to tackle school budgets in the Royal Borough

James Bagley, Local Democracy Reporter

Recovery action plan to be drawn up to tackle school budgets in the Royal Borough

A recovery and action plan will be drawn up to tackle the Royal Borough’s school budget financial pressures for next year.

Two months ago finance officers predicted the High Needs Block – which funds services helping children and young people with disabilities and special education – could have an £810,000 overspend in the year-in budget.

However, this year’s financial pressure has been eased due to underspends identified in other areas where it has been reduced to a projected £208,000.

The overall deficit of the school budget is projected to be around £1.2 million for next year.

At a Royal Borough School Forums meeting on November 19 (Thursday), James Norris, head of finance at Achieving for Children – who are commissioned to deliver children’s services on behalf of the council – said options are 'on the table' to reduce the overspend.

This could include moving funds from the school block – which funds primary and secondary schools – into the high needs block.

Mr Norris said: “We don’t necessarily want to do this and it might have to be something that’s further down the pecking order of options we consider – but it’s definitely an option that’s out there and on the table.”

Other actions includes encouraging their partners to increase their financial contributions, finding possible efficiencies and savings in their annual reviews of schools, and 'continuing to promote the independence and use of our local offer for our children and young people', James Norris said.

Finalised plans will be formularised at a later stage.

In the officer’s report, it states Achieving for Children is in discussion with the Department for Education where a detailed recovery plan and review of the budget’s spending will be presented to the School Forum.

Kevin McDaniel, director of children’s services, said there will be a ‘significant increase in money’ coming into next year’s budget – but warned members it’s 'all about having the money in the right place'.

Mr McDaniel said: “I want to flag that ahead of the next report because that alone won’t solve our problem.

“There’s a view taken across the South East of England from the director of children’s services that even if the money taps were to flow endlessly with money, we will still fundamentally not be addressing the systemic changes that are needed.”

He added the budget pressures around children with additional needs is a 'national phenomenon'.

The dedicated school grant is a ring-fenced grant from Government to local authorities – which is used to fund individual schools’ budgets such as academies or special provisions in schools.

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