Accounting Trick masks Dedicated Schools Grant Overspend
The Dedicated Schools Grant from the Department of Education is very important to our schools. It is distributed through the Council and the Schools Forum via a formula to fund education in our schools. This year the DSG for schools, including academies, amounts to £341.67 million. Pressures on the High Needs Block that funds support for children with special education needs has led to an overspend of £10 million. The external auditors who released a ‘Report in the Public Interest’ to highlight the serious concerns of how the Labour Administration has managed the finances of the Council criticises the accounting treatment of the High Needs £10 million overspend. The concern is how this will impact on school budgets going forward especially on vulnerable children as well as unearmarked General Fund reserves.
Treating the overspend as a debt is symptomatic of the cavalier approach to managing the budget in the Childrens Services Department since 2014, with growth year on year. The approach of lobbying the Government for extra funding without having credible plans in place to deal with the pressures as well has helped to lead Croydon Council to the brink of bankruptcy. The external auditors are very critical of the Labours Administration’s failure to address the overspends in the Childrens Services Department leaving it unable to deal with the pressures of Covid 19.
Undoubtedly there are service pressures on Childrens Services right across London and as an Opposition we joined with the Administration to lobby the Government for fairer UASC funding. However the culture of the Labour Administration to blame the Government for their own failings, to heap abuse on anyone who challenges and their lack of transparency has left Croydon with a £1.5 billion debt that will scar Croydon for decades to come.