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FULL TRANSCRIPT: Council leader's response to Fair Funding petitioners

FULL TRANSCRIPT: Council leader's response to Fair Funding petitioners

This is the full statement made by Royal Borough council leader David Burbage at a full council meeting on Tuesday, in response to Fair Funding petitioners protesting against the decision to award Holyport College £480,000 in developer funds.

Madam Mayor

In responding to the petition tonight, I want to thank those who have raised the issue of education funding and how taxpayer and developer funds are allocated.

I can tonight announce that we intend to review our policies and procedures in relation to S106 allocations and the future Community Infrastructure Levy. That review should take into account the wide range of issues raised by the petition and the accompanying information, to ensure that parents and children in the Borough receive the best choice of schools, offering the best education they can, for the benefit of those in schools.

There are few stronger words to advocate than “fairness”, and indeed many Conservative County Councils are currently campaigning for fair funding up and down the land because the allocations to shire areas can be somewhat lower than in metropolitan locations.

Alison Alexander and Cllr Wilson have described how developer contributions have been allocated from the Harrow Estates permission on Stafferton Way, and we’ve published and circulated a detailed note of that which I won’t seek to repeat tonight.

In line with the funding review, I can also announce that we are seeking to engage school communities in respect of funding that is in our direct control. Using participatory budgets, we would like to engage those communities to really make the case and show popular support for taxpayer funds to be spent on specific projects. We will need to work through the details of the exercise in good time, so that it is in place in time for the next Borough budget for 2016/7. It will take some of the allocations out from behind the desks at the Town Hall and into the hands of school communities.

On that topic, I’d also like to signal our broad support for the motion from Cllr Werner. Without debating the content now, it must be right that schools are fully engaged in developer funding discussions at the appropriate time, and with our review alongside the new legislation surrounding S106, we should be able to incorporate the principles he suggests.

I now turn to the earlier part of the petition, to revoke the funding agreed in April. I’m on the record, along with all of my colleagues who voted at the meeting on April 28th, supporting the expansion to this very popular school, yes, statistically most oversubscribed secondary school, in the Borough.

I don’t believe it would be right – or indeed fair – to try to constrain the school places that are being created at a school that so many parents are seeking to attend. That would be very unfair and reduce choice. Holyport College is 323 per cent oversubscribed in year 7 for September 2015 and it simply would not be fair to remove or delay allocating those 24 places from those who have been offered places - at the school they most want to attend - in September this year. That cannot be right or fair.

For all the reasons of wanting to increase opportunity and choice, we will continue to expand such oversubscribed schools such as we have done at Oldfield Primary, Furze Platt, Manor Green and Holyport College.

We will review and then publish our education funding policies so that future allocations are not only fair, they are seen to be fair, and also support more school choices for residents at schools they want to send their children to.

In summary then I have four recommendations :

(1)    Endorse the extant decision from April 28th to expand Holyport College for 48 extra pupils

(2)    Endorse funding arrangements to ensure places are available for Borough residents from September 2015

(3)    Review, update and publish developer contribution funding policies in line with updated S106 and Community Infrastructure Levy arrangements

(4)    Propose that a proportion of the Borough School Capital Funding be subject to a participatory budgeting exercise with effect from 2016/7

I commend the four tabled recommendations to Council.

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