Wrexham’s Lead Councillor for Education has questioned the local Assembly Member over how much Wrexham Council has seen compared to other authorities out of a £60m extra funding pot.
Yesterday we wrote about the concerns of a headteacher as various budget pressures are ending up at the front line in schools, resulting in likely ‘cuts in all areas’.
The letter mentioned Welsh Government funding, so we approached local AM Lesley Griffiths for comment, along with Wrexham Councillor Phil Wynn who is the Lead Member for Education in Wrexham.
Lesley Griffiths AM said: “…the latest Welsh Budget saw an extra £60m outlined for local government, as well as additional funding for education. Wrexham Council’s budget for the upcoming year increased by 0.4% yet this has still not been publicly acknowledged or welcomed by the Local Authority.”
Adding” “… there needs to be more vision, enterprise and innovation from this stagnant administration and more independent thought from the supposedly independent councillors.”
Such comments have not gone down well with Cllr Wynn, who yesterday wrote to Lesley Griffiths AM – copying in all councillors as well.
Cllr Wynn says he wanted to “register my disappointment” that the letter from the headteacher has been “turned into an opportunity by yourself to have a go at me as WCBC’s Lead Member for Education and fellow Independent Councillors by way of your snide remarks.”
Cllr Wynn went on: “At our meeting of the Council on Wednesday I clearly placed on record my thanks to the Welsh Government for the increased Revenue Support Grant (RSG) provided WCBC (worth 0.34%), which in part helped the ruling Group put an additional £1.15m towards delegated school budgets. I appreciate my message of thanks was lost in the heat of the night but this still stands.”
“I appreciate as a stalwart of the Welsh Labour Party you find it impossible to credit an Independent led WCBC for finding additional money for our schools but please be assured that what we have done has not gone un-noted, with the Chair of the Wrexham Association of Secondary Heads sending a letter of appreciation, which is attached for your perusal.”
Yesterday’s article quoted Lesley Griffiths saying Wrexham Council’s administration, that Cllr Wynn is part of, were playing ‘political games’ including ‘accepting pay rises for themselves’.
Cllr Wynn points to the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales draft report, and a ‘recommendation’ within to withdraw the two-tier pay scales in Wales for Executive Board members, noting: “This was a decision taken by a panel appointed by the Welsh Government not by WCBC’s Independent Councillors, so your assertion I would say is misplaced.”
Opening the debate to wider pay for elected members locally and nationally, he adds: “In the interest of a balanced discussion I’m sure Wrexham.com’s readers would of welcomed you making reference to Assembly Members’ pay-awards, which I trust are also over-seen by an Independent body.”
Cllr Wynn looks further afield again, contrasting local decisions to those up the road in Flintshire: “I am sure your Labour Party colleagues from Flintshire will of made you aware that they too have found it impossible to fully inflation proof their delegated school budgets for 2018/19.
“So please be assured the unpalatable decisions taken by WCBC ruling councillors were made from necessity not through political dogma as you try to insinuate.”
Cllr Wynn then asks two questions, one about Wrexham’s share of the £60m quoted, and a second enquiring the status of a £350k grant: “In your statement to wrexham.com you have restated that the Welsh Government have provided an additional £60m to protect school budgets during 2018/19.
“This is all well and good but having asked the First Secretary for Education at the WLGA annual conference for Education Lead Members, held back in November, for a break-down of this figure for each Authority, I can confirm to date no response has been provided.
“As my Assembly Member could you please ascertain, on behalf of Wrexham’s Education community, how much of the £60m was pass-ported to WCBC as part of our £174,636,390 RSG settlement?
“On a separate matter WCBC are still awaiting clarification off WG officials as to whether the WG cessation of our £350k Minority Education Achievement Grant (MEAG) is to take place from April 2018.
“As you aware this Grant enables WCBC’s Education officers to engage with children and young people from other countries who require additional support in improving their English language skills, as well as engaging with children and young people from the Gypsy and Traveller community.
“This Grant is critical if WCBC is going to play its part in helping the children of EU immigrants to settle and prosper in Wrexham.
“Your intervention in this matter would be much appreciated, as we are a matter of weeks away from the start of the new financial year, so it will not be lost on you that all local authorities are currently working blind on this matter.”
We will update as and when further responses are received.