Cut bureaucracy, Blair tells LEAs

3 Jun 99
Local Education Authorities found themselves in the government's sights again this week when Prime Minister Tony Blair stepped up the attack on spending on schools.

04 June 1999

In a speech to the National Association of Head Teachers annual conference in Cardiff on June 2, Blair said LEAs were failing to pass enough resources on to the classroom. Instead, he said, LEAs continued to waste too much money on bureaucracy.

He said if this situation continued, Labour would not hesitate to cap LEAs and force them to pass on more money to schools. This arm-twisting approach would begin next year.

'The prime responsibility for improving schools lies with schools themselves which is why LEAs should get as much as possible out of central bureaucracy and into schools,' said Blair. 'We aren't, frankly, satisfied that enough LEAs are doing this.'

The prime minister's attack was the latest salvo by the government fearful that the £19bn Labour has pledged to invest in education over the next three years will not be used to drive up standards or bring down class sizes – both promises in Labour's General Election manifesto.

Instead, as the money is not ring-fenced, ministers fear it will be spent on other things such as bureaucracy.

Education Secretary David Blunkett will publish league tables later this month, detailing how much each of the 150 LEAs in England are spending. Recently Blunkett wrote to 18 English LEAs, including Cumbria, Dorset and Lancashire, criticising them for holding money back from schools.

This comes on top of the recent snub to the public sector when Number 10 announced various private sector consultants for failing LEAs (Public Finance May 14–20, page 4).

For their part, LEAs say they are spending enough money on classroom education. Figures for 1998/99 show that 112 of the English LEAs are spending at or above their Standard Spending Assessment for education. Some £19.8bn was spent last year by LEAs. This was 2.2% above the figure recommended by the government.

The prime minister also launched the prospectus for a £10m National College of School Leadership, which puts head teachers at the heart of attempts to raise standards.


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