Councils urge government to speed up priority school building funds

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Councils have urged the government to release school building and maintenance funds that it says are still “tied up in red tape”.

Councils have urged the government to release school building and maintenance funds that it says are still “tied up in red tape”.

The Department for Education (DfE) this week announced the allocations of £1.6 billion in “basic need” capital funding for 2013-15. This is for local authorities to provide additional school places.

Also announced is £1.2 billion in 2013/14 for school maintenance spending, including £595 million for local authorities and £392 million for academies.

However, the Local Government Association (LGA) has stressed that this is not “new money” and called on the government to speed up the release of funds under the £2 billion Priority Schools Building Programme (PSBP).

The LGA says the majority of the 261 schools that were successful in bidding for funding under the PSBP are yet to receive the money, despite the list of schools being unveiled in May last year.

Cllr David Simmonds, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “While government struggles to get its act together, councils have been stepping in to keep schools running. Delays to already promised school funding means local government is working to address the basic repairs needed to keeps schools open, such as fixing leaky roofs. But we could deliver so much more with funds that are currently tied up in government red tape.

"It’s now vital that this funding flows quickly to address the shortfall in budgets and ensure local authorities can work with headteachers and parents to get on with the job of providing more school places where they are urgently needed.”

A DfE spokesman said: “Last month we announced details of the first two successful bidders who will start work this summer on the first of the 261 schools we are rebuilding or refurbishing. This programme will deliver schools that are fit-for-purpose and provide value for money in the quickest possible time. It is a great improvement on the Building Schools for the Future scheme which incurred significant consultancy fees and delays.”

The DfE has warned local authorities that some will see their basic need money fall after changes to the way funding is allocated mean it is now based solely on projected shortfalls between places available and places required.

In a written ministerial statement, education secretary Michael Gove said: “Some local authorities will see their funding go up, while others will see funding levels go down. This reflects changes in the number of new school places required in different areas of the country as well as the use of more detailed data and it is right that money is allocated where it is needed.”

Mr Gove also said that funding of £982 million, announced in the chancellor’s autumn statement, would be used to launch the Targeted Basic Need Programme, to which local authorities can submit funding bids “to increase the number of high-quality school places available in areas with the most acute levels of need”.

Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “Previously announced cuts to school capital funding including the cancellation of the Building Schools for the Future project have made it much more difficult to repair our dilapidated school buildings.”


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