Councils have slammed ministers’ decision to top-slice £413m of local government cash to fund the academies programme and say they have been left in the dark over the status of a raft of funding streams.
The local government finance settlement revealed that £148m in 2011-12 and £265m in 2012-13 is being removed from formula grant to pay for central education functions for academies.
Raising the matter at a Chartered Institute for Public Finance & Accountancy (CIPFA) conference, Leicester City Council principal accountant Catherine Taylor said the move had been “entirely unexpected”.
“We are looking at a loss of about £2m for academies, when as far as we know, there are no plans for academies in Leicester,” Ms Taylor added.
Local Government Association director of finance & performance Stephen Jones said he expected no councils would be absolved, even if an authority did not have any academies.
“Now, we don’t like this,” he said, “But it’s happened. The government likes academies and I don’t think that particular element of the settlement is susceptible to change.”
Another primary concern expressed in the wake of the settlement has been the fate of so-called “missing in action” grants – the raft of funding streams which ministers failed to account for in the October spending review, which in November encompassed at least 57 grants worth some £2.26bn, as revealed by LGC.
Mr Jones said while many had gone on the roll of honour for “killed in action”, the full picture was still unclear.
Blackburn with Darwen BC said it was unclear whether or not it would receive £8m of grant funding through the non-schools element of the standards fund and Learning & Skills Council funding.
Blackburn head of communications Marc Schmid told LGC: “At the moment, we don’t know if we are getting the funding or not. We are already looking at a £28m cut in funding, if we don’t get that it, we’re looking at nearly £36m.”
Tony Travers, director, Greater London Group at the London School of Economics, summed up the collective mood when he called on Whitehall to quickly clarify the position of individual grants.
“Spending departments are under some moral obligation to or otherwise to come up with a comprehensive list of which grants have been stopped, which grants have gone where and a comparison [between what councils have been given now compared to what they had in the past],” he said.