AN EXTRA £2 million will be added to a fund that will help schools deal with rising utility costs councillors have been told.
A fund of £500,000 had been created in February to help schools with rocketing energy costs as part of a political deal between the minority Liberal Democrat-led administration and the Independents for Powys Group.
This was to help get the Powys County Council budget for 2023/2024 agreed.
At a meeting of the Learning and Skills committee on Wednesday, March 29 Conservative group leader, Cllr Aled Davies ask for an update on the fund.
Cllr Davies said: “I’m wondering what’s happened to it.”
Fellow Conservative and committee chairman Cllr Gwynfor Thomas said: “When is the terms of reference going to be available?”
Director of education, Lynette Lovell explained that a team of officers from the property services department was putting together “a large spreadsheet of schools” noting their energy consumption and state of the buildings.
Mrs Lovell said: “It’s a huge piece of work.”
She explained that the criteria for receiving money from the fund would be based on the review.
Once the review is complete it would come to the scrutiny committee for members to look at, assured Mrs Lovell.
Cllr Aled Davies said that he was concerned that help would not reach schools quickly enough as they are currently preparing their budgets for the coming school year.
Cllr Davies said: “There’s very little time, there were assurances in the budget it’s quite disappointing really.”
Finance portfolio holder, Labour’s Cllr David Thomas told the committee that the fund is now “significantly more” than the original £500,000.
Cllr Thomas said: “There’s a grant of about £2 million that’s come in from the Welsh Government specifically for energy saving measures.
“This is why property (services) are looking at the schools in most need.
“We need to wait for that work to happen before we see where that money will be allocated.”
Cllr (Gwynfor) Thomas asked if Cllr (David) Thomas had known of the existence of the grant funding during the budget process?
“No,” replied Cllr (David) Thomas.
Mrs Lovell explained that schools are expected to produce their draft budgets by May 1.
These would then be looked at by staff from the education and finance departments through May and June before a report on forecast school budgets for the year would be produced in July.
Conservative Cllr Lucy Roberts pointed out that these school budgets wouldn’t arrive in front of the committee until November, and they should be scrutinised “sooner.”
Mrs Lovell suggested the committee’s work programme “needs to be amended” for that to happen.