West Berkshire Council

Agenda item

Schools: Deficit Recovery (Melanie Ellis)

Minutes:

Melanie Ellis introduced the report (Agenda Item 9) that was previously presented on 17th June 2019. It reported on the outturn position of the nine schools that set a deficit budget in 2018/19, provided an update on the work that had been carried out to support these schools and now at request of the members of the Schools Forum included a breakdown of the total income variance.

Melanie Ellis referred to the table on page 28 of the report and highlighted that a large amount of income was generated through reimbursements.

Councillor Erik Pattenden asked how parental contributions were raised. Ian Pearson confirmed that this was raised through a variety of forms. In some cases parents agreed to make a contribution to the schools and another way of raising this money was through school events. Hilary Latimer stated that at her school a pledge giving scheme had been set up for parents. A lot of money was also raised by the Schools’ Parent Teacher Association (PTA).  Felix Rayner added that funding raised by the PFTA was normally used to fund luxuries that could not otherwise be afforded.

Jonathon Chishick referred to primary schools in deficit and asked officers what the situation looked like for the following year. When submitting budgets many schools were projecting deficits and steps were then required to mitigate the issue. Jonathon Chishick asked if there was any knowledge regarding employee pension contributions and to what extent these would be funded. Ian Pearson stated that the model Jonathon Chishick had referred to was one most schools used and that many schools were projecting year on year deficits. Schools then need to think about how this deficit could be reduced.

Jonathon Chishick was concerned that when submitting three year budgets, deficits seemed to worsen year on year. Ian Pearson acknowledged that costs were imposed on schools overtime due to changes enforced by Central Government. The Government normally tried to subsidise such changes for a time limited period. Sometimes the funding provided by Government did not cover all of the cost to schools due to the funding formula used. Melanie Ellis stated that when schools submitted budgets they allowed for increases in cost but not increases in funding.

Jonathon Chishick queried the situation going forward. Melanie Ellis reported that positively the number of schools in deficit had been reduced down to three.  Melanie Ellis stated that she could provide some information on the number of schools predicting a deficit in year two and add this in to the next schools deficit report that was brought to the Schools’ Forum.

Reverend Mark Bennet queried the extent of parental contributions and was concerned that some parents might not be able to afford to commit to this. It was important to recognise how this might privilege some schools.

Ian Pearson reported that there was a deprivation element to the funding formula. It was however appreciated that it was more complicated than this and some schools were feeling squeezed financially.

The Chairman commented that it was not helpful that Central Government had postponed decisions concerning funding six times, which had led to further frustration. There was no confirmation yet as to whether pension contributions would continue to be subsidised. It was important that Schools and Local Authorities continued to put pressure on Central Government.

RESOLVED that Melanie Ellis would add a section to the Schools Deficit report on the number of schools predicting a deficit in year two, in time for the next Schools’ Forum meeting in October 2019.

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