LGA slams education ring-fencing

8 Nov 01
The Local Government Association has declared its 'emphatic' opposition to any attempt by the government to ring-fence local authorities' education budgets.

09 November 2001

Launching its response to the government's white paper on education, published in September, LGA officers and members were united in their rejection of the proposal.

In the paper, Education Secretary Estelle Morris declared her intention to acquire reserve powers allowing her to determine how much councils spend on their education departments and what the money goes on.

Graham Lane, chair of the LGA's education executive and a Labour member, said protecting the education budget in this way would inevitably mean that other budgets, such as that for social services, would be squeezed.

Lane also complained about the lack of local accountability if financial control were taken from councils. 'At the moment you can decide how much to put into different services. If you're not funding your schools properly you are responsible and accountable to local people. There is a lack of democracy in the ring-fencing approach.'

Andrew Povey, a Conservative member of the LGA's education executive, expressed concerns that it would set a dangerous precedent. 'Alan Milburn is not going to sit next to Estelle Morris in a Cabinet meeting when she has the power to ring-fence her budget and he doesn't. Nor is Stephen Byers or Tessa Jowell.

'If the education budget is ring-fenced, other ministers will demand the same powers and we'll end up where 99% of local government's money is spoken for,' he said.

'On the one hand, they are centralising power, on the other they are saying they want to devolve power down to the local level.'

The LGA is also objecting to the proposal that councils should invite bids when establishing a new school, with the secretary of state having the final say over the winning bid. Taking the decision out of local hands would be 'a recipe for local chaos and confusion', it said.

But the organisation gave a broad welcome to some of the other proposals in the white paper. It praised the proposed changes to the national curriculum, and the commitment to reduce the bureaucratic burden on staff.


Did you enjoy this article?