INCREASED funding will “stabilise” the creaking Schools and Education Service to allow it to go through a reorganisation councillors have been told.

In total the Powys County Council (PCC) Education and Schools Budget is due to go up from £91.749 million this year to £98.567million in the next financial year (2020/21).

A total of £6.6 million of this is needed for teachers’ pay and cost.

But the Service itself will see a cut or “cost reductions” of £511,000.

This has caused worry, that there are not enough staff to respond to the critical Estyn report published in September 2019, or push through the “new vision” and “transformation” of schools in the county.

On top of this many schools are running deficit budgets.

Due to all the extra work the service is doing, interim chief education officer, Lynette Lovell, told PCC’s learning and skills scrutiny committee on Thursday, January 30, that  staff had been working on proposals after the draft budget papers had been published on January 14.

Reports on the “cost reduction” details were late in reaching the committee.

Committee chairman, Cllr Pete Roberts  (Liberal Democrat – Llandrindod South), said: “How are we to have confidence that they (savings/cuts) have been developed in detail if we can’t see where they come from at the moment?”

Cllr Roberts, brought up the 2019/20 budget process when £2 million was taken out of the education service.

Cllr Roberts said: “That was some of the potential cause of where we are now and I want to be confident that we are not damaging the central service.

“It’s very easy to say we are protecting schools and just take money out of the back office but I am very concerned that we are taking too much out.

“I’m mindful of this being a very dangerous point where if we get it wrong this year we could have implications.”

Education Portfolio Holder, Cllr Phyl Davies (Conservative – Blaen Hafren)  said: “The challenge of the £511,000 savings has only been done in the last couple of weeks.

“It’s been widely publicised if we don’t get this right that we could lose control of our education and we fully understand that.

“What we have got is an experienced team at the top table now and we are undergoing a root and branch exercise in terms of growing a fit for purpose central team that can support our schools effectively.

“When we’re going through the impact assessments, there is a much bigger one that sits behind it in the PIAP (Post Inspection Action Plan) and the inspection report from Estyn.”

Head of finance, Jane Thomas, added that the the budget would give the service and schools a “stable position” while the transformation agenda happens.

Cllr Gwynfor Thomas, (Conservative – Llansantffraid,) said:  “I welcome the additional investment but schools will view this as just rescuing them.

“We have to accept that we have some schools that are in a desperate situation, it will just get them on a stable footing.”

The cost reductions/cuts are:

£53,450 – across a number of budgets relation to discretionary expenditure on travel/subsistence and stationary

£226,040 reduction for the LIST (Learning and Inclusion Support Team)

£50,000 Early years underspend due to falling numbers

£7,000 – Underspend of governor training

£65,000 -Underspend in out of county placements

£109,000 – From miscellaneous budgets