Government accused of failing to address worries over Hartlepool schools funding

Hartlepool Civic Centre.
Hartlepool Civic Centre.

Council chiefs are demanding a government minister answers their questions after accusing him of failing to address urgent school funding worries.

Hartlepool Borough Council says town schools are facing a “financial cliff edge” as they are set to lose £1.5m in 2020-2021.

Education minster Nick Gibb

Education minster Nick Gibb

The council wrote to the Department for Education in January after councillors unanimously backed a motion expressing worries over the Government’s new National Funding Formula.

Hartlepool schools will see receive increases in their budgets of at least 0.5% in 2018-19 and 1% in 2019-20.

But they have been called ‘minimal’ by the council and it says schools are not able to plan ahead as the Government has not announced funding beyond 2020.

In a reply to Hartlepool Mayor Paul Beck, education minister Nick Gibb defended the new funding formula saying Hartlepool will see an overall increase of 1.1% when it is fully rolled out.

A council spokesman said: “The council will be writing to Mr Gibb again, as he has failed to satisfactorily address the key questions we asked when we wrote to the Government back in January.

“We had asked the Government, as a matter of urgency, to confirm that the transitional arrangements for implementing the national Schools Funding Formula will continue in 2020/21 and beyond to avoid schools in Hartlepool facing a financial cliff edge and to enable them to develop sensible medium term financial plans for delivering education services to our children and young people.

“We have received no such undertaking, and as it stands our schools in 2020/21 will still be facing a 2.3% cut in funding from the Government.”

The council added a 2.6% ‘high needs’ funding increase for children and young people with special educational needs or disabilities is not enough to meet “unprecedented” levels of demand and the town faces a shortfall of £825,000 a year.

Mr Gibb said the new formula was a reform of outdated and unfair systems and would see resources directed to where they are needed most. He added: “You will understand that any spending plans beyond 2019-20 are subject to the next Spending Review, and I am therefore not able to make commitments beyond that point.”

Mr Gibb said Hartlepool would receive £10.6m high needs funding in 2018-19, a 3.2% increase as a result of the new formula.