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Thursday, June 17, 1999 Published at 19:08 GMT 20:08 UK


Education

Blunkett threatens councils over school money

David Blunkett will warn councils to cut red-tape

The education secretary has told councils in England that he might force them to pass on extra funding for schools.

David Blunkett said local authorities should reduce their expenditure on bureaucracy and make sure that extra money intended for education reached the schools.

Otherwise he said he might be forced to 'ring fence' it to ensure that it could not be diverted into other council services.

Mr Blunkett, speaking at the Council of Local Education Authorities conference in Nottingham, said the government had made a major investment in education and councils had a duty to ensure that the money was spent on improving standards in schools.

'I will act'

Next week Mr Blunkett will seek to 'name and shame' councils which he says are under-funding schools, with the publication of lists of local education authorities which have fallen below spending targets.

"When I publish the figures for the first time ever next week, parents and schools will be able to see exactly where the money goes. Let me be clear today - where local education authorities are holding too much back from schools, I will act decisively," said Mr Blunkett.

He told journalists after his speech that ring fencing was something that might be necessary in the third year of the current spending review, if he found out that money was not going into school budgets.

"There would be no point in us allocating very large increases in spending on children in schools only to find that it went instead to building roads or underwriting ice rinks," he said.

'Budget cuts'

The accusation that councils are not making sufficient efforts to forward extra money for education comes amid claims from schools that they have still to receive the boost to school budgets promised by the government.

School governors claimed last week that schools were if anything continuing to experience budget cuts.

A survey by BBC East last month found many schools in the region claiming not to have received extra money and a National Union of Teachers' survey claimed that funding was not increasing in schools at the rate claimed by the government.

Red tape 'hypocrisy'

The effectiveness of local education authorities at supporting schools was also questioned by the Audit Commission, which published a report in February claiming that there was a wide variation in the cost and quality of school services among local authorities.

The new Shadow Education Secretary, Theresa May, said Mr Blunkett's call to cut red tape was "amazing".

Mr Blunkett had sent 322 directives from his office to schools and local education authorities in the past year, she said.

"David Blunkett should practice what he preaches."

  • The Department for Education and the Local Government Association have set up a new Website to provide councillors dealing with education matters with news about departmental policy and access to policy documents.

    More information, advice and training are promised. The address is www.dfee.gov.uk/elected.



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