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Schools may need to prove eligibility for slice of £500k energy cost fund

SCHOOLS who want a slice of £500,000 to help with rising energy bills may need to present a business case and appear before a panel to state their case – a committee has heard.

Powys County Council’s Learning and Skills scrutiny committee met on Friday, February 10 to look at an amendment to the draft budget for 2023/2024, that sets up the fund.
The proposal for the “one off” fund is part of a couple of tweaks to the draft budget and are the result of discussions between the cabinet and the Independents for Powys group.

Cllr Lucy Roberts

Cllr Lucy Roberts said:  “How do you distribute that money fairly between the schools?”

Head of finance Jane Thomas said there was a need to have “really clear” criteria that explains when a school can apply for support.
Ms Thomas said: “This is the detail that we need to work up before April.
“It’s clearly got to be matched by action at the school to do all that they can to reduce the impact of the pressures that they’re facing.”
“It will have to be accompanied by a very clear business case demonstrating the meeting of that criteria and I’m going to suggest that have a panel.”

Jane Thomas

Committee chairman Cllr Gwynfor Thomas said: “It’s welcome but it’s not enough.”
He thought the money should be shared out between all Powys school through their funding formula.

Cllr Danny Bebb said: “I think this money would be best spent on the energy saving measures.
“We’ve got to start at the bottom the like things like insulation, glazing , LED lighting before anything else.”
“Insulation is something that could have been done as routine maintenance over the years but it just hasn’t been, and that this is why we’re in the situation.”

Cllr Danny Bebb

In summing up the discussion Cllr Thomas said that the committee were “uncomfortable” with the lack of information on how the fund would be distributed, the lack of information on individual school budgets especially high schools.
The committee’s recommendations will be presented to a meeting of the cabinet that discusses the budget amendments, tomorrow, Tuesday, February 14.
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.

The budget is set to be discussed by all councillors at a meeting on February 23.