Monday 6 February 2012

New round of cuts will impact on children amidst funding tussle

Brent Schools Forum and Brent Council are in a tussle over funding ahead of the Executive's discussion of the budget on February 13th.

The Schools Forum had made a recommendation of a 15% cut in central services. This is in the context of  many schools considering Cooperative Trust or Academy Status and an ongoing debate about the value of the services the Council provides. At the same time the Council eyes school surpluses.


The Schools Forum adopted the following recommendation:
The Schools Forum recommends that the 2012/13 Schools Budget should be set with a reduction in central items within the Schools Budget of 15% with the resulting saving being passed onto schools.
The Budget Document states:
The Forum has no decision making powers in regard to this recommendation and can only make recommendations which the Executive can consider and then decide to accept or not accept. Officers would not recommend that the Forum’s recommendation is approved for the following reasons:
• The Schools Budget is already £7.2m in deficit and subject to special recovery measures.
• A rolling programme of budget reviews over 2012/13 has been agreed with the Forum that will allow the Forum to gain greater insight into the complexities of the main central item areas and make more informed recommendations rather than a blunt flat rate reduction.
• By far the largest central item spending areas consist of support for pupils with Statements of Special Educational Needs (SEN), for which the Council has a statutory responsibility. It would not be viable to make blanket reductions without impacting on the Councils ability to meet its statutory responsibilities.
• A long-term strategic plan to reduce expenditure on SEN is already in place as a One Council Project. This will deliver significant ongoing savings in central items beginning in 2012/13, so effectively savings in line with The Forum’s wishes are already being made.
• The latest DfE analysis regarding the level of Schools Surpluses shows Brent Schools as holding the sixth highest level of surpluses out of all London Boroughs. Care has to be exercised in reaching conclusions regarding this as in many cases surpluses are held by schools for long term capital schemes. Nevertheless this does not support views that more funding should be passed directly to schools at the expense of being able to adequately fund statutory responsibilities.
Appendix Dii of the document lists a series of 'Savings' (cuts and increased charges) in the Children and Families Budget for 2012-13. These include:

Children with disabilities and SEN: Reduction of £21k in SEN and early years support and increased charging of non statutory services of £57k
Increased charges for Brent Music Service £40k
Closure of Crawford Avenue Respite Centre £137k
Management restructuring £134k
Ending of Inner London Weighting for officers and manual grades £68k
Charge Target Mental Health in Schools to schools (previously LA contribution) £150k
Increased buy back/charging of Traded Services £150k
Cessation of information, advice and guidance (Connexions) to schools(responsibility passed to schools) £550k
Reduction in SEN Transport expenditure through revised criteria and application process and expansion of in-borough provision £200k (plus another £100k annually in 2013-14, 14-15)
Savings in Social Care Placements (West London Alliance project)  £150k (£200k, £234k)
Savings on administration  of Social Care management and Business Support across Children  and Families £50k
Reduced staffing for Duke of Edinburgh Award and charging for Summer University £100k
Amalgamate Youth Offending Service and Youth Service - cutting one head of service £100k
Reduce Children with Disabilities Teams from 3 to 2 and 'tighter monitoring of direct payments' ££60k
Reduction in Core Services to Schools which will be offered on buy-back terms with increased charges £700k (£150, £150)
Early Years and Localities - explanation is fairly impenetrable but involves 'end-to-end service review' and 'managing demand for children's social care', and 'reviewing scope and coverage of existing children's centres to move towards delivering of targeted offer'. £500k (£500k, £500k)
One Council initiative to review employee benefits £70k

Total: 2012-13 £3,216,000 2013-4 £1,000,000 2014-15 £834,000

While we are told time and time again that the Schools Budget is 'protected' it is clear that these changes, through shifting responsibilities and increased charges will eat into school budgets.  The Council has said it is confident that more schools will buy into services this year and is meanwhile considering a social enterprise model for non-statutory services next year.

The proposals for  SEN, Mental Health, Children with Disabilities, Children's Social Care and Children's Centres will concern many parents and schools.


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