Thursday, 9 March 2017

Cllr Lynn Riley's letter to the Chronicle on school funding

Lynn wrote to the Editor of the Chronicle regarding the funding of schools in Cheshire.  The Chronicle didn't publish the letter so I am!

Sir:

Cheshire schools have historically had the lowest levels of pupil funding in England. For decades, councillors of all parties have lobbied to change this and Cheshire West has joined with others in the F40 group (www.f40.org.uk) to make our case to successive Governments.  The F40 along with tens of thousand of people signed Fair Schools Funding petitions wanting an end to the a system where children in Cheshire get on average £4,498 per pupil compared to £6,297 in the 10 highest funded areas where council tax is considerably lower.  Finally, we have a Government that is both listening and acting to change this. The principle of fair funding is uncontroversial and was welcomed by most headteachers in 2016. There were certainly no objections or reports in the press when £9.4m was added to the budget in 2015-16 as the Government provided extra funding to the F40 schools.

The National Funding Formula to make funding fairer for schools and children is currently out to consultation asking for views on the detailed design of the formula. Clearly this doesn’t work for Cheshire schools, West and East and Conservatives on the ground are not afraid to say so. We are however backing it up with action and direct representation to the Minister Nick Gibb and his team at DfE. Both Antoinette Sandbach and Graham Evans our Conservative MPs, have had several direct meetings, both accompanied by a Headteacher from a CWAC secondary and primary school to paint the all important picture of the reality in the classroom. 

Rachel Bailey as Leader of Cheshire East met the Minister after Christmas and as Leader of the Conservative Group I went to London last week for the same reason. I paid for my own tickets as I was told that this was not a Council sanctioned event- I went anyway.  A team from the DfE will be coming to Cheshire before the end of the consultation to work with officers in both Councils to examine the reasons why the proposed formula is indicating reductions for local schools.

The arguments are well evidenced and have been well made, but quietly behind the scenes because we want a solution for our students not a sound bite and an excuse to bash the Government that is attempting to fix an age old issue. At CWAC, Labour claim to be  great believers in consultation and reserve the right to change things according to the response. I’m curious that this principle doesn’t extend to others, particularly the Government. The local mantra is “Let’s Talk” but no-one from Labour seems to be in a hurry to want to talk with Whitehall.

Regards

Lynn Riley

Leader of the Conservative Group, Cheshire West and Chester Council


... and yet more evidence of a CWaC Labour Group more anxious over soundbites than sound management and governance.