School bosses reassured that council chiefs won’t grab their spare cash

Hebburn Lakes headteacher Tony Watson.
Hebburn Lakes headteacher Tony Watson.

Schools in South have been reassured council bosses won’t try to claw back any cash they’re able to save themselves.

Education financing rules say schools should try to limit the size of their budget surpluses.

This is supposed to be no more than five per cent for secondary schools and up to eight per cent for primary and special schools, and any excess can be taken away from them.

“It reads like a mechanism for local authorities to take this off us before it gets to Schools Forum,” said Tony Watson, headteacher at Hebburn Lakes Primary School, at a meeting of the South Tyneside Schools Forum.

He added: “I know for a fact the authority is strapped for cash and I know the reasons.

“I would seek reassurance that they’re not going to do that, and if they are, it renders what we’re doing to reduce balances in a humane way useless.”

Teresa Race, South Tyneside Council’s strategic finance manager, told the meeting that if any funds were taken from schools they would be redistributed through grants to schools, and not retained by the council.

She said: “Around taking balances off schools, it’s any uncommitted balances.

“If any balances were taken off the schools it goes to the Dedicated Schools Grant, it doesn’t get retained by the local authority.”

Although schools are supposed to keep surpluses within set limits, they can be allowed to exceed this for specified projects.

School balances in the borough have lost  more than £1million over the last 12 months, falling to £2.104million in July from £3.267million the year before.

According to a report prepared for the forum, the average surplus held by schools across South Tyneside is 3.5 per cent of their budget.

James Harrison, Local Democracy Reporting Service