Lib Dem Council Leader calls for investigation into Devon schools' unused £21M reserves

July 20, 2015 2:38 PM

Devon's schools are stockpiling nearly £21 million of public funds given for education, figures from Devon County Council reveal.

An investigation is being demanded by County Lib Dem leader, Cllr Alan Connett, into why so much money is being held in reserves by schools.

"There's some homework to be done to justify why so much money is being held back for schools by the county council, especially at a time when we face severe cuts," said Cllr Connett.

"Devon is one of the lowest funded councils in the country for education, so every single penny really does matter. The Conservative run county council needs to get to the bottom of this because otherwise it could damage the all-Party campaign to win better funding for our schools," he added.

Currently, the Government gives Devon approximately £270 a year less for each child at school than the national average. There's been all-Party support for the county council's lobbying nationally for a better deal for schools.

Bringing Devon up to the national average for schools funding would bring in an extra £23 million a year for education in the county - just a bit more than the schools' current reserves.

In the past year alone County schools have squirrelled away a further £3 million, taking the total reserves to £21 million, the county council has confirmed to Cllr Connett.

"It may be there is a very good reason for schools holding onto the money, but I was surprised to learn that in total they have stashed away £21 million. The first thing Government will ask is why our schools have not used the money they already have, before asking for more" he added.

As Shadow Leader of Devon County Council, Cllr Connett has asked the council's finance chief Mary Davis why the schools reserves are so high and rising.

The council has said the funding is being carried forward from previous years.

At the end of 2013/14 financial year, schools carried forward surpluses of nearly £18.3 millions; by the end of this April (2015) that sum had increased to nearly £21millions.

"I am told each individual school should be able to justify its level of balances and its future use. I think now is the time we need to look closely at why this money is being held back from the classroom" said Cllr Connett.