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LOBBYING FOR SSA FORMULA HOTS UP

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Lobbying of the government by local authorities is intense this autumn because ministers plan a freeze on standard ...
Lobbying of the government by local authorities is intense this autumn because ministers plan a freeze on standard spending assessment changes for three years, reports The Financial Times (p9).

The coalition of English counties calling itself E8, a group of councils describing themselves as 'the country's worst funded education authorities', wants the government to introduce national minimum funding levels for each child in state schools, and bring relatively under-funded schools up to this standard.

E8's central argument is that it is unfair to put different educational price tags on children because of where they live. Many of these variations in government grants to individual authorities arise from the complex selection of social and economic factors that go into compiling SSAs.

Within a finite overall grant allocation, changes in the criteria usually mean one group of councils can gain only at the expense of another. In the comprehensive spending review, however, the government allocated an additional£19bn over three years to education.

This means, argues E8, that budget growth can be maintained for all education authorities, while giving proportionately more to less well-funded ones.

Nick Hodgson, chief executive of Derbyshire CC, said: 'We can at last address an unfairness that faces one million children in poorly funded authorities like ours, without having to create losers elsewhere.'

Another group worried about changes to SSA calculations in the Association of London Government, which has warned that 'in the worst possible case' London could lose up to£400m from SSA changes to education, children's social services and are cost adjustment, which compensates south eastern authorities for higher wage costs and other bills.

One of the liveliest arguments, says the paper, is over how funding for additional educational needs in deprived areas should be allocated. The ALG says Whitehall options for revising the needs index could 'devastate London's schools' by removing factors - such as the proportion of children from families on income support - where the capital scores far above the national average.

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