School finances are "like a cruise tanker" which can't be instantly turned around, an education specialist has told Powys Council's top brass.

But doom-and-gloom predictions of a £7.7 million deficit on the county's schools budget by 2022 have proved overly pessimistic, after major inroads were made into turning around that financial performance.

At Powys County Council’s cabinet meeting on Tuesday, November 24 councillors were told that the situation is improving, and the deficit is now expected to be nearer £4.9 million – and it's continuing to narrow.

Education consultant, Geraint Rees, told councillors that had it not been for the  Covid-19 pandemic, schools would have been able to bring down costs, with plans for redundancies having been put on ice.

Mr Rees said: “Schools are taking their finances very seriously.

“The situation is more optimistic than in May 2019 when a three-year forward look was given.

“There was an anticipated overall school deficit of £7.7 million, we’ve already made inroads of £2.25 million into that.”

“The pattern is a bit like a cruise tanker where you can’t just turn it around. You have to get it to a stop, and then reverse.

“There’s been a good clipping back on the deficit, and with a bit of luck it will be nowhere near the predicted £7.7 million."

Head of finance Jane Thomas explained that schools that have been given warning notices would have those in place until their recovery plans had “come to fruition.”

Ms Thomas said: “Although we have a significant number of surplus budgets in the primary sector, that is supporting considerable deficits in the secondary sector.”

“Some schools were requested to submit recovery plans as their initial budgets didn’t meet the criteria, and that has been updated.”

She added that the £6.6 million extra pumped into schools this financial year taking the overall education budget up to just over £98.5 million, had stabilised matters.

Adult Social Care portfolio holder, Cllr Myfanwy Alexander, (Independent – Banw) said that in her experience as a school governor it was always always wise to deal with grant funding “conservatively.”

“Grants make good political headlines but it would be far better to have it put into the base funding.”

Council leader, Cllr Rosemarie Harris added:  “It’s good to hear we are cautiously optimistic.”