Anger over funding cut for Portsmouth education budget

Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson
Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson
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THE Government is facing court action from Portsmouth City Council over a decision to take £500,000 out of its overall budget to help fund academies.

Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of the council, has already had to ratify council-wide cuts to make the saving, which he has called a ‘deeply unfair miscalculation’.

Portsmouth is now one of 14 councils that have sent ‘pre-action’ letters through the Local Government Association calling on the Government to reconsider.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘There are 14 councils including the Isle of Wight who have sent the letter. We will wait to see if the Government accepts our point and agrees to think about it again. Otherwise, we will go to court.’

Academies operate outside council control and so receive money from central government to run services councils provide for state schools, such as pupil support.

The Department for Education pays this money to academies out of its central resources budget – but has now decided to start raising some of the cash by cutting the formula grant it gives to councils.

A DfE spokeswoman told The News they were merely taking away money that had been ‘doubled up’ in previous years, when both councils and academies were paid to run these support services.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘The Government wants to reduce our budget by the amount we give in support to academies, but their calculations are completely wrong.

‘Even if they were based on all our secondary schools being academies, £500,000 is still much too high a figure.

‘We only have one academy (Charter, which replaced failing St Luke’s), which we spent £40,000 on last year.

‘That is nothing close to £500,000 which is a figure we are struggling to understand.’

Portsmouth wrote to the Government to raise concerns when the £500,000 cuts were first proposed in December but they went ahead anyway.

The DfE spokeswoman said: ‘The double funding of local authorities and academies for the same services is confusing and frankly not good value for the taxpayer.

‘This issue will only become more pronounced as the number of academies opening continues to accelerate.’