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£500k fund set up to support energy costs in schools in Powys

SCHOOL finances in Powys may be given some protection from rising utility bills, as a fund of £500,000 is being set up to help with this extra burden.

The proposal is part of a couple of “amendments” to the draft budget and are the result of discussions between the cabinet and the Independents for Powys group.

In January the cabinet endorsed a draft budget that will see the council tax increased by five per cent as well as a raft of savings, cuts and income generation measures designed to bridge a funding gap of £16.45 million.

Cllr Gibson-Watt said: “I and other cabinet members had good discussions with more than one group and individual members.

“Those discussions were very constructive and amicable.

“As a result, the draft budget has been strengthened and good suggestions about changes to the way the council functions will now be pursued.”

Cllr James Gibson-Watt

Next week scrutiny meetings will be held to allow councillors to mull over the  amendments.

The report said: “Cabinet propose a series of amendments to the revenue budget they approved on January 17.

“These changes will be reflected in  the budget proposed to council on the February 23 .

“Both Cllrs Jeremy Pugh and James Gibson-Watt endorse these changes.

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Cllr Jeremy Pugh

“In proposing these changes, cabinet have considered further the potential impact on school budgets as they respond to the increase in energy costs, particularly those who are already struggling to balance their budgets.

“The changes proposed will provide funding to establish a fund to support energy management in schools.”

They propose: “The set-up of a one off £500,000 fund to support energy costs and energy efficiency measures in schools.
“The fund will be held in the schools delegated contingency budget.”

To fund this proposal money will be taken from several pots;

Help proposed to external care providers by raising the travelling expense allowance to 50 pence a mile won’t happen and the £22,000 saving this generates will go to the fund.

The one off payment of £287,000 to Freedom Leisure to help them with energy costs will be “redirected” to the fund.

The report says the money for Freedom Leisure can be found elsewhere in the 2022/2023 budget.

An extra £191,000 will also be available – and this will come from the council’s vehicle and equipment replacement reserve.

The Learning and Skills and Economy, Residents and Community scrutiny committees will probe these amendments at meetings on Monday, February 13.

A second proposal is to take away a potential cut of £120,000 from older day care provision.

The report said:  “This estimate is not supported by detailed proposals but is included as a potential savings following a review of services.”

“Until a review has taken place it was felt that this saving was not feasible.”

The Health and Care scrutiny committee will also look at this on Monday.

This means that potentially the minority Liberal Democrat/Labour and Green Party administration can count on another six votes taking them up to 36 of 68 councillors who support the budget.