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Rural taxpayers to pay for city schools.

Byline: By Shahid Naqvi Education Correspondent

Council taxpayers in rural areas face seeing their cash spent in inner city schools under a new funding formula to be introduced next year.

Money earmarked for pupils in Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Staffordshire will be diverted to those in Birmingham, Sandwell, Dudley, Wolverhampton and Walsall, a Midland shire authority claimed yesterday.

Education chiefs in Warwickshire claim the situation arises because of a 'profound shift' in the allocation of funds.

From next April the Government plans to give authorities a centrally-calculated sum of money to spend on schools.

Warwickshire maintains that under the new system, councils like itself, that currently invest more on education through council tax, will be penalised.

It claims the extra revenue raised will be re-directed to those that spend less than their Government-fixed share.

Since metropolitan authorities like Birmingham already gain more per pupil to combat deprivation in inner city areas, they are likely to spend less and be the chief beneficiaries, Warwickshire claims.

Education chiefs in the county calculate a pounds 4.7 million loss annually under the new system - equal to 140 teachers or pounds 61 less per pupil.

Eric Wood, chief education officer for the county, said.

'The Government is planning, in effect, to nationalise the funding of schools.

'It is the shire counties that are meeting and exceeding the Government targets at every key stage.

'This redistribution of money will have the effect of putting more money into those authorities that are not meeting the targets.

'If we were to suffer a pounds 4.7 million cut in our budget I can't be confident we can maintain the standard of education.'

Warwickshire has launched a petition to force Education Secretary Ruth Kelly to guarantee the county will not lose out under the new Dedicated Schools Grant.

It claims 90 other authorities will suffer under the new arrangement and 50 will gain An independent study by the Institute of Public Finance, commissioned by Warwickshire County Council, claims Birmingham will gain about pounds 5 million.

The study says Walsall, Wolverhampton and Sandwell will also benefit significantly with Dudley and Solihull gaining slightly.

Staffordshire would lose a similar amount to Warwickshire under the arrangements, which will be brought in transitionally, while Worcestershire would lose slightly less.

Coun Izzi Seccombe (Con Stour & The Vale), Warwickshire's portfolio holder for children's services, said: 'On the surface this new grant seems to benefit schools by giving them their grant direct, but there is a lack of flexibility that will damage our schools Coun Alan Farnell, (Con Nuneaton Weddington) leader of Warwickshire County Council, said: 'It is a very, very serious problem. We have always believed in funding our schools to the best of our ability. This is a backward step and it is a step we are not going to take lightly.'

Education bosses in Warwickshire say they do not dispute schools in inner city areas deserve more cash. But they argue it must not be at the expense of shire authorities.

The Department for Education and Skills claims the Dedicated Schools Grant will increase the amount of money spent on education to every authority
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jun 28, 2005
Words:521
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