A NORTH Wales primary school will make compulsory redundancies after applying for a loan of around £44,000 from the council.
Conwy Council’s finance and resources overview scrutiny committee met on Monday to discuss the loan after Ysgol Cynfran in Llysfaen admitted it couldn’t balance its books.
At the meeting at Bodondeb, councillors heard how the school was struggling because a drop in pupil numbers meant the school had a reduced budget.
But the redundancies also follow Conwy Council slashing all school budgets by 5% earlier this year.
The loan application to the council will now go to the cabinet for a final decision.
But lead member for education Cllr Julie Fallon said the sum needed to balance the books had fallen from £141,000 to around £44,000 after school reserves were used together with grant funding.
The application follows the school on Dolwen Road going through a voluntary redundancy process, but staff failed to volunteer.
Councillors were told the number of redundancies needed was unknown.
Cllr Fallon said: “As you are aware, we’ve had some schools make redundancies.
“They’ve been voluntary redundancies.
“That was the path that this school had taken, but we had no staff put themselves forward for voluntary redundancies, which is why we find ourselves here today.
“So that process has moved to compulsory redundancies, but that is more of a protracted process, and once that is completed, that will put the school in a position to repay the loan quite quickly.”
She added: “This is not an easy process to go through as a headteacher.
“It is not a decision you come to lightly, and they’ve worked incredibly closely with the (council’s) team over recent months, so the fact we can see how much that has come down from £140,000 is a positive story, and I support this process.
“It is a challenging time we are all aware of in terms of budgets.
“So I’m happy to support (this). Obviously it is up to you (the committee) to make the recommendation today, but I feel the processes we’ve been through,the questions we’ve asked, and the work that the school has done mean that this is the opportunity to what I would say is probably more of a bridging loan that is going to address that shortfall in the short-term whilst we go through the process of compulsory redundancies.”
Cllr Frank Bradfield said his “heart went out to every school that struggled financially” but raised fears about how the cuts could affect children needing extra support.
He said: “All children are equal, and under the law, they must be treated as equal, so you can’t withdraw support for children with a mental condition or another condition while children who are able-bodied get full support, so I would like to think we would rethink this.
“Children with special needs and difficulties need to be looked after.”
But Cllr Bradfield was told by council officers that children would still receive some support, despite the cuts.
Cllr Mandy Hawkins called the loan a sticking plaster.
The committee unanimously voted in favour of the loan and will ask cabinet to consider making it interest-free.
Speaking outside the meeting, Cllr Abdul Khan, who is not a member of the committee, blamed school cuts on both central and Welsh Government after Conwy received only a 7.3% increase in its annual settlement, compared to a Welsh average of 7.9%.
“It (schools struggling financially) has a lot to do with the funding we get as a local authority from Welsh Government, so because we are getting less, we have less to give as a council,” said Cllr Khan.
“Education is a bastion of the community, isn’t it? The central government and Welsh Government should get their priorities right.”