Newcastle City Council leader furious as Tyneside misses out in funding handout

Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes has spoken out after the Schools Minister announced a funding handout for some education authorities

Council leader Nick Forbes
Council leader Nick Forbes

The leader of Newcastle City Council has slammed the Government’s announcement that it has found an extra £350m for schools across the country - but none will be going to the metropolitan boroughs in Tyneside.

And he warned that the announcement appeared to mark the start of a new approach to school funding, with money going to rural areas and the South instead of urban towns and cities where it is needed most.

City council leader Nick Forbes was speaking after Schools Minister David Laws announced a major windfall for some education authorities.

Surrey was awarded an extra £25m on top of its existing school budget, Cambridgeshire got £20.5m and Bromley, in London, got £19m.

Most of the money went to rural areas including some in the North East.

Northumberland County Council is to receive an extra £10.6m in the 2015-16 financial year, and Durham County Council, which covers rural as well as urban areas, is to get an extra £4.3m.

But there was nothing for Tyne and Wear authorities such as Newcastle, Gateshead, North Tyneside and South Tyneside.

And the award of extra cash was just the first stage in the Government’s plans to introduce a permanent new funding system. The 62 authorities awarded a temporary cash boost for 2015-16 are likely to be the same authorities that enjoy a permanent increase in their budgets once the new system is in place.

But Coun Forbes said he was concerned about what this would mean for schools in big towns and cities.

Speaking to The Journal, he said: “We’re scratching our heads to understand why schools in Bromley should have an 11.3% increase in their funding while there is no increase for schools in Newcastle.

“The Government doesn’t seem to have taken into account any of the challenges and issues with schools in urban areas which often serve deprived populations, and the additional support that children from those areas require in order to do well at school.

“I’m concerned that this represents a freeze on school budgets in places like Newcastle at a time when many of the schools are telling me that they require extra resources in order to continue providing the same quality of education.”

He added: “The crucial point here is that the needs of children haven’t changed.

“And funding forumlae have always recognised that some areas have greater challenges than others.

“What the Government has done is handed an extra £350m to the areas with fewer problems and fewer challenges rather than the areas most in need of extra investment.

“It’s a perverse decision that some local authorities are significant winners while others like Newcastle see no increase, and it looks like a shift away from the well-established principles of supporting schools in challenging areas so that they can help children from deprived backgrounds to do better.”

Setting out the policy in the House of Commons, Schools Minister David Laws said it was designed to end an unfair funding system which meant some councils got far more funding than others.

He said: “Sometimes, similar schools just miles apart can be funded at very different levels, merely because they happen to be in different local authority areas. In other cases, schools with many disadvantaged pupils can end up being funded at a level that is well below that of a nearby school in a more affluent catchment.”

The Government had drawn up new plans “to allocate schools funding in a fairer way”, he said.

This would mean 62 councils received more money, and they would be given the cash in the 2015-16 financial year.

And Mr Laws said: “No local authority or school will lose from this proposal.”

However, he also said that a new funding scheme will be rolled out nationally “when there are multi-year public spending plans”, which is likely to mean the period beginning April 2016.

The Department for Education has been unable to confirm how funding for authorities such as Newcastle or Gateshead will be affected when that happens.

Labour claim the Government is delaying “the bad news” until after the next election in May 2015.

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