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CONCERN THAT NEW EDUCATION DUTIES ARE NOT ADEQUATELY FUNDED

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Concern that insufficient funds are to be made available to cover the extra responsibilities and duties conferred o...
Concern that insufficient funds are to be made available to cover the extra responsibilities and duties conferred on local government during the past year has been expressed by the Welsh Local Government Association.

Education spokesperson Jeff Jones addressed the annual conference of the Standing Conference for Education in Wales (SCEW), the teacher association joint forum.

Cllr Jones told the conference on Friday that his principal concern centred on the apparent lack of funding made available in future years:

'I'm concerned that money which was made available by Special Grant during this financial year has not yet been promised for future years. We have been assured that the£15m special grant - which was Wales' share of the chancellor's March Budget statement - does not appear in budget figures from 2002-3, even though the chancellor himself gave an undertaking that the money would be there for three years'.

Mr Jones focused particularly on threshold costs:

'I am of the opinion that the national assembly has not yet grasped the full implications of the funding of the Teachers' Threshold Pay arrangements.'

Mr Jones went on to list key concerns:

(1) There will be a new cohort of teachers eligible for threshold pay each year. The assembly's budget makes the unrealistic assumption that teachers moving on from threshold pay arrangements (because of promotion or retirement) will balance the new cohorts after only two years. The association accepts that balance will be achieved but believes that it will take four or five years. It estimates the gap in funding as£4.3m in 2002-03 rising to£8.6m in 2003-04.

(2) The value of threshold payments increases in line with changes in teachers' pay. This will rise to£2.2m in 2002-03 and£3.5m the following year;

(3) A substantial problem arises with access to the 2nd threshold pay point in September 2002 for teachers who were in the first cohort in September 2000. One average size council has costed this at£781,000 rising to£1.338m in 2003-04 when the second cohort will qualify. Therefore the figures for the whole of Wales could be very significant indeed.

(4) Assumptions about the number of teachers who would qualify in September 2000 and 2001 were low. The association stressed that the grant needs to be built into baseline funding for the general revenue settlement for 2002-03 onwards.

(5) The implications of the implementation of the increased employer contribution for teachers are also key to the budget outcomes. It will increase by 0.95% next year, which will cost Councils across Wales in excess of an additional£8.4m. Evidence is also beginning to emerge that the increases stemming form the threshold payment are moving the National Insurance contribution and superannuation costs into a higher bracket.

Mr Jones undertook that the association would continue dialogue with the national assembly in an attempt to resolve these issues:

'We want to ensure that funds are available to allow local government services to play their part in the national assembly's lauded and welcomed drive to raise educational and training standards across Wales. 'The Learning Country' is an important document - it must not fail'.

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