Nine schools could be forced to make redundancies in Northants after missing budget targets

Nine Northamptonshire schools missed their budget in the 2016/17 financial year.
Nine Northamptonshire schools missed their budget in the 2016/17 financial year.

The number of maintained Northamptonshire schools in deficit has risen from five to nine in the space of a year amid renewed calls for a fairer funding method for the county.

Historically, Northamptonshire's school pupils have long been underfunded. For the 2015/16 year, the county was allocated £4,293 per pupil, compared with Westminster, which was awarded £5,872 per pupil and Brent with £5,357.

But a report at yesterday's county council cabinet meeting has revealed that four more schools did not stay within budget in the 2016/17 year than in 2015/16.

The nine schools in total - which the county council has chosen to keep secret - missed their budgets by a total of £180,000 and could be forced to make redundancies in order to balance their books.

Speaking at the cabinet meeting, Councillor Danielle Stone (Lab, Abington and Phippsville), said: "We've got a situation where schools are facing rising costs every which way they look - and yet their funding is being reduced.

"I think it is bad that we have gone from five to nine schools in deficit.

"I am sorry, but the situation is only going to get worse unless we get a better settlement from the Government."

Councillor Stone called on the recently elected Conservative MPs in Northamptonshire to put school funding at the top of their agenda.

School deficits occur due to a number of factors, the main one being falling pupil numbers.

This results in a reduced budget allocation, due to the way the school funding formula works. Any school with a deficit at the end of the financial year is asked to produce a report showing how it will balance the books.

Other factors are the reduced 6th form funding allocations from the Government for secondary schools, and school staff and governors not actively planning for changes in future income.

A recently redrawn National Funding Formula kicked in at the start of April and saw the county council allocated an extra £7.44 million from Whitehall.

However, 90 county schools lost out on a combined share of £2.6 million. Of them, 67 were primary schools, 19 are secondary schools and four are all-through schools.

Head of education at UNISON, Jon Richards criticised the way the formula had been calculated in february - stating the new allocations were a poor substitute for extra funding. “Schools that are already underfunded will get much less than they’d hoped for," he said.

Cabinet member for finance at County Hall, Councillor Robin Brown, (Con, Woodford and Weedon) said: "The concerns that are being raised will form part of the way we tackle the issue of central Government funding."