Shropshire Star

A quarter of Powys schools are struggling financially, senior councillor admits

Concerns have been raised that Powys schools are underfunded this year by over £3 million.

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And a senior councillor has admitted that a quarter of the 86 schools in Powys are struggling financially.

At a meeting of Powys County Council’s finance panel on Monday, councillors went through the budget out turn report for the last financial year.

While the report paints a rosy picture that the council finished 2023/2024 with a surplus of £2.3 million on its base budget of £326.6 million, a black cloud looms over school finances.

The report shows that schools drew on £5.8 million from their reserves.

Last year the council’s schools received £84.5 million but with the reserves of £5.8 million added to that, they actually spent just under £90.3 million.

The report also shows financial problems for secondary schools which were £4.5m overspent by the end of March.

This is £3.2 million worse than their position at the end of March 2023.

In this year’s budget, schools will be given £87.4 million.

Finance panel chairman and Conservative group leader Councillor Aled Davies said: “The was a total spend of just over £90 million in the last financial year but the amount of monies they have this time around is £87 million so it’s an actual cash reduction for our schools and no reserves to top it up.

“The deficits are in the high schools, where there is real pressure.

“High school governors will appreciate the challenges as we see reduction of staff and options available.

“They will have to reduce costs by £3 million while facing increased teaching costs.”

Director of corporate services, Jane Thomas said: “We’re still waiting for the teachers’ pay award to be finalised for September so that is a key factor for schools budgets as we move through this year.

“We have had historic deficits across some schools and we continue to work with those schools to bring their budgets back to the baseline funding they receive.”

Schools transformation manager Marianne Evans said that “reviews” and “deep dives” were being done with some high schools to understand why they are in this position.

This is to find out where schools can manage subjects and teaching time “more efficiently".

Ms Evans added that there is a need to “escalate” the school transformation programme which would require “difficult decisions” from Cabinet members over several years.

Ms Evans said: “Unfortunately the reality is we have too many schools to maintain and keep running.”

Finance portfolio holder Labour’s Councillor David Thomas said: “When we look at our schools, 75 per cent of them are managing perfectly well within the funding they are provided and then 25 per cent are struggling to differing degrees.

“I’m sure the deep dives will allow us to get to a position where all schools are delivering a balanced budget.

“I’m confident we can get there.”

Comments from the finance panel are expected to be added to the report, which will go on to a meeting of the Cabinet at the end of the month.