ALLOWING the risk around school budgets to drop down off Powys County Council’s strategic risk register is an attempt to “hide” the problem, a senior councillor has claimed.
At a meeting of the council’s Cabinet on Tuesday, March 7, councillors looked at the proposal to put two new risks onto the authority’s strategic register, while allowing two to drop down to be dealt with at departmental level.
One of these two risks being downgraded is that “some schools would have escalating deficits which will have a financial impact on the rest of the council,” if financial management of schools’ budget doesn’t improve.
This is done by the “ongoing adjustment” of the school funding formula which was approved by the Cabinet on January 31.
Conservative group leader Cllr Aled Davies pointed out that the risk was still noted as “catastrophic.”
Cllr Davies said: “There’s significant concern whether the budgets are sufficient and will not compromise the quality of education.
“The maintenance of the buildings is a really high level risk and that they will become unsafe and unfit for use.
“I think the cabinet is trying to hide this risk, it’s not going away.”
He added that this report did not: “consider what happened in the budget.”
During the budget discussion Cllr Davies had claimed that schools had not been “fully funded” to the tune of £4.7million.
He asked if the recent budget decision would affect the “risk” in the future.
Head of finance Jane Thomas said: “We will support our schools through the process and will work very closely with governing bodies to help them set their own budgets now.”
“We have a series of sessions already set up to go through their budget plans – we will then be keenly monitoring that position as we move through the financial year.”
She added that there is money held in “risk reserves” to help manage problems as or when they crop up.
“I’m comfortable that we the appropriate reporting mechanisms in place to highlight problems early so that we can take any mitigating action,” said Ms Thomas.
Education portfolio holder Cllr Pete Roberts said that that changes to the schools funding formula would allow schools to have “cover supervisors” rather spend their money on supply teachers when staff are absent.
“There is ongoing work that will mitigate a number of these issues,” said Cllr Roberts.
Cabinet voted to approve adding risks to the register and taking risks away to be dealt with at departmental level.
The risks added to the register are:
The council is “susceptible to high levels of fraud” due to the cost of living crisis.
Power outages could affect the council’s ability to deliver services.
The other risk dropping off the register is around children’s social services ability to manage their budget.