At a meeting of Powys County Council’s (PCC) Learning and Skills scrutiny committee on Thursday members were told that the pandemic had disrupted work to sort out deficit budgets in some of the county schools.
At the half way stage of the 2020/21 financial year, a report on the council’s finances shows that by the end of the period, it is expected that primary schools reserves will fall to a £2 million surplus, while secondary schools will be £4m in the red.
Special schools are predicted to be £17,000 in the red.
It means the total deficit for schools is predicted to be around £2m by the end of 2020/21.
The committee was given the context to the figures by education consultant, Geraint Rees.
He said: “The big disappointment we’ve had this year apart from the catastrophe of Covid, is this was the year when schools were grabbing the budget situation strongly.
“Schools was getting to a point where it was clear about a need to reduce staffing.
“During January there were a lot of emerging proposals where schools were looking to make an adjustment to staffing this year.”
Mr Rees explained that some schools had kept members of staff in the hope that changes to funding would provide more money.
He said they had started realising this was not going to be the case but then Covid-19 struck.
Mr Rees said: “During the outbreak there’s been a moratorium on those redundancies.”
He added that it would have been difficult for the authority to go through the redundancy process.
“It seemed entirely inappropriate, people would not be able to apply for jobs,” said Mr Rees.
He added: “It was all parked, and essentially what that has meant, schools that were going to make adjustments, have not been able to do them.
“Clearly there is a lot of water to go under this bridge before we get to the other side of this financial year.”
He pointed out that the funding formula had been tweaked for 2020/21, and the budget had included £6.6 million more going in to schools and education.
Interim Chief Education Officer, Lynette Lovell, said that schools had been given more time to set their budgets and that recovery plans for those in deficit were due to be submitted by October 16.
She pointed out that sorting out schools budgets was one recommendations given to PCC following last years’ catastrophic Estyn Inspection report.
Ms Lovell added: “We have worked with our schools relentlessly, before and throughout the pandemic, meeting with our schools regularly to work through their budget proposals.”
“We will be bringing a more detailed reports when the recovery plans come in.”