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Mar 11, 2022, Slough and South Bucks Observer: Slough's schools deficit could rise to £43m i[$56M] n two years

Near London

SLOUGH’S school budget’s funding black hole could grow to £43.4m[$56M] in two years if no action is taken. While the council itself is facing a 10-year £479m funding gap as well as needing to reduce its £760m borrowing debt, its budget for its schools is also in trouble.

Its dedicated schools grant (DSG), a ring-fenced allocation of government money to fund schools and services, could see an overspend of £25.5m [$33M] for 2021/22. Back in 2015/16, it had a deficit of £4.9m [$6.4M].

This is mainly due to the overspending in the high needs block, funds used to support children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

In chief finance officer Steven Mair’s report, he warns this deficit could increase to £43m [$56M] by 2024/25 if no action is taken. Government-appointed commissioners, who have been sent in to help sort out the council’s situation, warned without improvement plans, “the overall financial situation of Slough Borough Council will worsen”.

The council will be trying to balance the deficit in year, meaning they will try to stabiles the deficit by no longer overspending. Once that is sorted, the Department for Education (DfE) will engage with the council and be ‘minded to’ assist in reducing this gap…. Speaking at a full council meeting, Cllr Christine Hulme (Lab: Central), lead member for children’s services, said they will participate in the DfE’s ‘safety value’ intervention with the aim to agree on a reform package to SEND and bring the deficit under control. She also said they are also working with schools and health colleagues to ensure SEND children and young people have quality outcomes and ensure joint funding packages are identified and implemented…. The lead member for financial oversight, Cllr Rob Anderson (Lab: Britwell & Northborough) explained to the Local Democracy Reporting Service the DSG “hasn’t been well managed” because councils were not required to balance the DSG year-on-year and could roll over the deficit. He said: “It’s about getting back to a position of sanity on that and then we hope we can get an agreement with the DfE dealing with the historical debt, which I am sure it was done for the right reasons in saying that councils didn’t have to balance it in-year. “We’re not alone in this. It’s a lot of money across the country because everybody has basically been doing the same thing.”…


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