New plans will see the council’s schools budget increase by 1.48% – however a saving of £1.15m is still listed as needing to be found.
The original ‘saving proposals’ saw a £1.15m saving produced by a ‘standstill budget’ next year and a £1.4m saving created by a similar freeze a year later, however today it was announced extra cash is going into the schools budget despite savings still being made.
In letters made public today, one school fed back to Wrexham Council stating they would have to ‘send pupils home’ on health and safety grounds if the original plans to freeze the budget went forward unchanged.
We put Wrexham Council’s education officer’s concerns that budget freezes, and impact of savings could mean less teachers, teaching assistants and affect what subjects can be offered to Council Leader Mark Pritchard, and asked if the new planned 1.4% increase would mitigate those concerns.
Cllr Pritchard said: “We listened to the consultation, which had two areas that were hot topics, PCSOs and education. What we have done as an administration is listened to the people and listened to Scrutiny, and put extra money in education.
“I think yes, there is enough money there now to cater for the needs of the requirement across this council.”
Cllr Pritchard then reiterated the need to make ‘tough decisions’ on cuts due to the amounts of money needed to be saved due to the lack of funding flowing from Cardiff and Westminster.
He added: “What we have proved in Wrexham is we continue to protect services and the most vulnerable.”
Lead Member for Environment and Transport, Cllr David Bithell said: “It could have been a lot lot worse, a standstill budget would have meant a lot of issues across all of our schools and the potential for redundancies. That is not to say there will not be any, as that is a matter for the schools.
“What we have done as an administration is prioritise key areas like schools and adult social care where the significant pressures are.”
The full letters of response from unions and schools are now public, and can be found on this PDF on the council website These documents were not available two weeks ago for councillors to look at in what was already a scathing meeting.
In a letter to Wrexham Council, the NAHT (National Association of Headteachers Wales) response hammers the initial standstill proposal, stating: “Given that the rate of inflation is running at about 3%, teachers’ cost of living increase is probably going to be at least 1%, support staff 2%, utilities probably about 5% and the incremental salary progression of staff, a stand-still arrangement will be another real terms cut for schools.
“Depending on staffing costs, schools would need an increase of up to 4% or 5% in income to stand still.”
Criticism of the consultation comes from NASUWT, which refers to several phrases as ‘misleading’ and a section as ‘misrepresenting of facts’, at one point referring to schools in Wrexham ‘getting a bum deal’.
One schools refers to the previous proposals as ‘gravely concerning’ saying class sizes of 40 could be required, with another saying if the cuts were made ‘little else’ could be done – and if there were to be ‘…a further reduction of staff I would on health and safety grounds have to send pupils home.”
The full budget documents ahead of Executive Board meeting can be found here on the Council website.
As with other budget proposals, this is still formally a suggested option however will likely have full Executive Board support next week meaning it will then be taken forward to Full Council. That is the point where all Councillors get to have their say on their plans, and get to vote – assuming they attend.
The Executive Board meeting is on Tuesday starting at 10am, and will be webcast. The Full Council meeting is on Wednesday, 21st February, at 4pm and will also be webcast.