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Cost to councils of academy status switch could top £1.1bn

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Department for Education plans to more than double the amount of money being clawed back from councils to pay for services to academies have received a muted reaction from the sector.

A departmental consultation on funding the Local Authorities Central Services Equivalent Grant, which funds places for pupils at academy schools, suggests the true cost transfer from councils to central government could be as high as £1.1bn over two years due to the number of schools trans ferring to academy status.

The figure would represent a huge increase on the £413m due to be cut from councils’ formula grant this year and next. But despite 23 authorities having launched a judicial review against the initial figure, the consultation mainly drew cautious reactions.

“There’s no evidence the costs that have been suggested have been scientifically proven,” said Alan Wood, director of children’s services at Hackney LBC, who added that the consultation’s timing would limit councils’ ability to gauge the opinions of head teachers.

John Merry (Lab), leader of Salford City Council and deputy chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young pe ople’s board, said: “The LGA is concerned the department does not have sufficiently robust data to make an objective assessment of the savings that local authorities make when schools convert to academy status.”

Earlier this year, the LGA argued that even allowing for a 200% increase in the then 408 academies, a reasonable figure was some £60m.

The latest DfE figures indicate there are about 430 academy schools, with more than 1,000 secondaries and 399 primaries expected to convert by March.

The consultation argues that local variances on what councils spend on central services for schools mean “there are not necessarily diseconomies of scale” to be faced when government funding is reduced.

Emily Heard, partner at law firm Bevan Brittan, which is representing the judicial review councils, said the consultation’s admission that the figures were not based on what councils would save from no longer providing services to schools that became academies was not “a good premise”.

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