Montgomeryshire Assembly Member, Russell George, has called on the Welsh Government to think again before unleashing a £22 million cut to the Education Improvement Grant (EIG) over the next two years.
In a move which could disproportionately affect rural local authorities such as Powys, the Welsh Government's Cabinet Secretary for Education and Assembly Member for Brecon & Radnorshire, Kirsty Williams AM, has announced that the money ring-fenced for the Education Improvement Grant will be removed in 2018/19 (accounting for some £13 million) and made available to local authorities through the Revenue Support Grant (RSG), a funding stream which accounts for 80% of all local authority spending.
Following complaints from council leaders across Wales that their share of the EIG has not been factored into the RSG, leaving a funding shortfall, Mrs Williams has responded by pledging £5 million from school budget reserves.
In a letter to the Children, Young People and Education Committee, Mrs Williams states that the reserve money will allocated to Cardiff, Newport and Swansea local authorities to “alleviate the impact” on learners within these local authorities without any mention of authorities such as Powys or the Vale of Glamorgan.
After questioning Mrs Williams in the National Assembly Chamber this week (Wednesday 7th March), Montgomeryshire AM, Mr George said:
"The Welsh Government’s draft budget sets out plans to cut the Education Improvement Grant by £22 million over two years and the Welsh Government has previously hid this cut behind a slight increase in overall funding to local authorities via their Revenue Support Grant.
"However, there is no guarantee that any increases in that funding will be passed on to schools and Powys County Council has rightly voiced concerns about this net cut in school funding.
"Unless resolved, these cuts will mean that councils will have to cut other vital services in order to make up for the deficit in their revenue support grants.
“I am very concerned that a number of other grants which have also been amalgamated into the revenue support grant will also be absorbed in a similar fashion, leaving local authorities even worse off after years of sustained Welsh Government cuts to their budgets.”
"In her letter to the Children, Young People and Education Committee, the Cabinet Secretary acknowledges "issues” with the EIG and has committed £5 million from the Reserves for 2018-19 to “alleviate the impact on our main urban authorities” but she makes no mention of the Vale of Glamorgan or Powys who are once again the poor relations to our urban counterparts."
“These cuts must be reversed and local authorities in Wales must all be reimbursed for the money they’ve lost so that services can continue to support the educational needs of our pupils.
"Therefore, I would now urge the Welsh Government to look again at this grant stream to ensure that schools in Powys get the resources they need."