Powys cabinet branded ‘complacent’ over projected school finance woes
Powys County Council’s Cabinet has been slammed as “complacent” over the financial woes facing schools.
School finances were discussed at a meeting of the Liberal Democrat/Labour Cabinet on Tuesday, July 11.
In recent weeks schools and their governing bodies have finalised and submitted their budgets for this financial year to the council.
They have also forecast for the next two years and where they will be at the end of the 2025/2026 financial year.
Secondary school budgets were cumulatively £1.907 million in deficit at the end of last March and predicted to be £5.736 million in deficit by the end of March 2026.
The position for primary schools will see their budgets move from a surplus of £6.654 million at the end of last March – dropping to a surplus £672,065 at the end of March 2026.
Finance portfolio holder, Labour’s Cllr David Thomas said: “When we look at forecasts for a lengthy period up to 2026 its full of estimates, there’s a lot of volatility around it.
“We have to work towards securing balanced in year budgets which will eventually secure a far better figure at the end of the period.
“This can be achieved by the recovery plans that schools have been asked for.
“I’m fairly confident at the end of that process the figure will be a lot better, they are not going to be as bad as the report suggests.”
The Learning and Skills scrutiny committee had discussed the school budget figures at a meeting last month – and were “shocked” at how bad school finances could become.
Chairman of the Learning and Skills committee, Conservative Cllr Gwynfor Thomas said: “The (budget) tables are very clear, they are tumbling, and the secondary school’s sector is in a desperate situation.”
The predicted £6 million swing in the primary sector budgets also worried Cllr Thomas as this would put “extra stress” on those schools.
Cllr Thomas said: “It’s very complacent to say that the figures may be better at the end of that third year.
“They are very pessimistic and putting an optimistic slant on them is wrong.
“The budget as it stands isn’t enough to run schools and that is worrying.”
He pointed out that his committee had mentioned the idea of needing to look at the number of secondary schools’ sites in the county and asked that a risk assessment of school budgets be done.
Conservative group leader, Cllr Aled Davies said: “For school to bring their budgets back into the black they will have to sack or not replace teachers.”
Cllr (David) Thomas responded to the criticism by stressing that forecasts can be “unreliable” and that it was essential not to “overreact ” or make “knee-jerk” decisions such as taking money away from other under pressure council services to give to schools.
Head of education, Georgie Bevan told the councillors that the department had been working “really closely” with schools.
Ms Bevan said: “It’s an intense process.”
Council leader, Liberal Democrat Cllr James Gibson-Watt said: “It is convenient to paint a picture of doom and gloom.
“There’s no complacency from this cabinet about this situation.
“All services are under pressure across the public sector – this is a reflection of that situation.”
Cllr Gibson-Watt added that he is “confident” the situation will be managed.
Councillors noted the report.
By BBC LDRS
Spotted something? Got a story? Email News@News.Wales