In a report going to Tuesday’s School Forum (Agenda Item 13) Wirral Council admit they breached an expenditure limit by £741,000 in 2012/2013 (which relates to the Children and Young People’s Department, which has democratic accountability through the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and Lifelong Learning, Labour Cllr Tony Smith (Upton)).
In addition to this £741,000 needed, a further £333,000 is needed for the “Private Finance Initiative Affordability Gap”, £32,000 needed for “Other” (which is probably a knock on effect of these other changes) and £71,000 extra needed for the Carbon Reduction Budget which brings the grand total required to £1.177 million.
This’ll (assuming the Schools Forum agrees to the change) be made by reducing the Schools Contingency Budget, the Early Years Contingency Budget and the Academy LACSEG central budget.
Basically when a school converts to become an Academy (as some have this year), the new Academy receives what it would before from the Local Authority (in this case Wirral), plus the local authority share of the grant Wirral Council receives from government (this covers the Academy’s costs of things they now have to pay for like assessing eligibility for free school meals, special educational need support services, certain staff costs etc).
However the transfer to the new Academies follows a long process that Wirral Council’s Children and Young People’s Department should have known about at the time of setting the 2012/2013 Schools Budget (earlier this year), which begs the question, why weren’t assumptions that certain schools would become academies factored into the Budget when it was set earlier this year (or is this too much crystal-ball gazing to expect of Wirral Council)?
This means the Indicative Schools Budget will be reduced by 18% to factor in Wirral Council’s overspending and faulty Budget assumptions. Certainly while one expects minor in-year budget adjustments to reflect unforeseen circumstances (usually using reserves set aside for this), these Academy changes have been “on the cards” for some time! If some of Wirral Council’s departments continue to overspend in this fashion (as they have for many years), eventually the cuts in 2013/2014 will have to be more severe, to make up for any 2012/2013 overspend. As we’re already halfway through the 2012/2013 Financial Year, some of that 2012/2013 Budget has already been spent.
P.S. And as if the above wasn’t bad enough Wirral Council lost out on ~£1.6 million of education funding (agenda item 4) because they gave the Department for Education the wrong numbers for Early Years learners, from the report this happened because “this was not identified at the time due to a breakdown in validation checks in Wirral” .