Posted by: John Brace | 5 January 2016

Wirral Council receives extra £725,000 of education funding (but Lyndale is still closing)

Wirral Council receives extra £725,000 of education funding (but Lyndale is still closing)

Cabinet 17th December 2014 vote on Lyndale School closure L to R Cllr Tony Smith (Cabinet Member for Education), Cllr George Davies, Cllr Ann McLachlan

Cabinet 17th December 2014 vote on Lyndale School closure L to R Cllr Tony Smith (Cabinet Member for Education), Cllr George Davies, Cllr Ann McLachlan

I do keep an eye on Wirral Council press releases (although I rarely write stories based on them as sometimes the facts in them are untrue) and their latest one is about receiving an extra £725,000 of funding for schools.

I’m half expecting a Labour councillor to pop up and say how terrible this is, how it’s all the government’s fault and that this is the reason that schools like Lyndale School have to shut.

However, this story is more complicated than that and the issue has been discussed at at least one meeting of the Birkenhead Constituency Committee.

Basically the gist of the story is this. Those families on means tested benefits, if they have children can ask the school for free school meals. If they do so, then Wirral Council receives extra money through the Pupil Premium which then results in extra money for the school.

However there is a stigma attached to parents telling a school that their family is on means tested benefits, so many parents don’t. Indeed the parents probably worry about the stigma of free school meals causing embarrassment to their child or children too.

I remember one embarrassing incident from my childhood when I was at a new primary school (I was around ten years old). I went to pay for my school meal at the till but one of my friends didn’t. I ran after them and pointed out they’d forgotten to pay, they turned bright red and explained that they received free school meals because their parents were on means tested benefits. Yes twenty-five years later I still remember!

So Wirral Council has used the housing benefit and council tax information it has instead of relying on parents supplying this information to the school.

As a result Wirral Council will receive an extra £725,000 this year (if you remember Lyndale was being shut for a projected shortfall of ~£190,000).

So you see once again, this mantra of "it’s all the government’s fault" that the Labour administration on Wirral Council repeat again and again turns out to be somewhat of a smokescreen. Labour are in charge of Wirral Council so they are accountable to the public.

Wirral could’ve been doing the above for years and no doubt lost out on millions of education funding over the years as a result. I wonder if this change would never have happened if it hadn’t been for the Rt Hon Frank Field MP behind the scenes persuading the councillors and officers at Wirral Council to be sensible? Indeed the Rt Hon Frank Field MP, rather frustrated by the arcane bureaucracy at Wirral Council recently stated at a public meeting that it was easier to secure peace in Syria than to get Wirral Council to circulate minutes of a public meeting quickly.

This is of course one of the advantages to filming a meeting as you don’t have to wait months for the minutes.

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  1. I can still remember when all school meals where free, as they should be now!

    • I realise they did bring in universal free school meals for those aged 4, 5 and 6 relatively recently.

      In fact that caused a problem for the pupil premium funding (based on a free school meals entitlement that was now universal) as parents of children of those ages automatically qualified for free school meals.

      By the time I went to school in the 1980s, school meals were no longer free.

  2. Can I just say to you, John, well done for highlighting issues like this on your blog. We are supposed to live in some sort of DEMOCRATIC society and IMO local decision makers (who ultimately control what is spent on what) should go away and THINK AGAIN and not just about their party! Whatever that means these days! So, well done once again > keep calm and carry on! Of course people of influence read your blog. Don’t they?

    • The media did the best they could over Lyndale School.

      I admire a lot of the reporting Emma Rigby of the Wirral Globe did on it, she’s recently left the profession though sadly.

      Some political parties have a habit of digging their heels in and getting stubborn when people kick up a fuss.

      You would remember what happened over the library closure program (and the Sue Charteris public inquiry), dragging their heels over publishing the Anna Klonowski Associates report and so on and so on.

      Only recently have we seen that if there’s a large petition (say over charging for parking at Fort Perch Rock) in a marginal ward that policies are changed.

      A more recent issue of the ferry at Woodside is an example of that too.

      The irony is that this is probably in part due to Lyndale. Certain politicians got too used to the position in the past where they felt that they and their parties knew better than the people.

      That age has passed though. I think the age of people thinking politicians knew best went around the time of the MP expenses scandal.

    • Oh and in answer to your question, thousands read my blog each month.

      Not as much as the Wirral Globe or the Liverpool Echo, but yes people read it that have positions of influence.

      However the blog has become a position of influence itself too.