Worcester’s MP has welcomed the impact of the lowest inflation on record for the cost of living and in helping his constituents pay go further but he has warned that it risks reducing the already low funding per pupil for local schools if Labour presses ahead with its current spending plans.

The Labour party has set out with great fanfare to make inflationary increases in the overall schools budget but, with inflation at a record low this could mean little or no increase over the next five years.

Meanwhile Conservative plans, to protect cash funding per pupil over the next five years, which have been criticised for not allowing for inflation, would at least allow spending to rise as pupil numbers increase.

As pupil numbers are already increasing substantially in primary schools and are set to cascade through secondary schools in the years to come, this means that the Conservative plan for school funding is likely to deliver a higher budget for local schools. The difference could be as much as £146 million in the first year and £590 million over five years according to calculations by the Department for Education based on 2% inflation. However the exceptionally low rate of inflation currently being reported would mean that this number could now be higher.

Combined with this is the long running campaign, which Robin has led in this Parliament, to secure a fairer share of funding for lower funded areas such as Worcestershire. He recently led a cross party debate to press the case for this to be urgently delivered, welcomed the £390 million that the Coalition Government provided to the lowest funded areas and pushed for rapid delivery of more help. Both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have already committed to delivering a new formula but Labour has yet to do so. Last week Robin wrote to the leader of the opposition to urge him to consider the case for a fair formula but as yet he has had no reply.

Robin pointed out to Mr Miliband that f40s proposals were only for a fairer system and would mean more funding for schools in his own constituency of Doncaster, in that of his shadow chancellor in Leeds and that of his education spokesman in Stoke on Trent, however it would mean a reduction of funding for some schools in central London for instance around £300 less for the extremely well funded pupils of Islington.

F40s proposals would mean £214 per pupil more on average for Worcester schools each year and would reduce the gap between Worcestershire’s funding and that of neighbouring Birmingham by over two thirds. As Robin set out in his letter to Mr Miliband

“They would mean an additional £172 per pupil for your own constituents in Doncaster or £140 per pupil for your Shadow Chancellor’s in Leeds, £100 per pupil extra for your Shadow Education spokesman’s constituents in Stoke on Trent, £117 for Mr (Dennis) Skinner’s in Derbyshire and £455 for your colleague Mr Jarvis’s schools in Barnsley – the biggest gain of any local authority. They would mean slightly less funding for some inner London boroughs and some of the largest cities but would leave these areas still significantly better off than rural areas or smaller cities. For example the funding for schools in Islington would fall by £311 per pupil but would still be £5,910, more than £1,200 per pupil higher than the funding for your own schools at £4,684.”

He concluded:

“As MP for an underfunded area like me, I have to ask whether you can continue to justify your party not committing to a fair funding formula and whether you will reconsider Labour’s position on this issue? I would encourage you to look again at this issue to see if it can be taken out of the party political debate and moved forward with on a genuinely cross party basis.”

Commenting on the overall picture for fair funding, Robin said:

“There has never been a better time for the fair funding campaign. Under the coalition we have seen the first commitment to reform of the formula and a £390 million down payment on future fair funding. We have widespread recognition of the problem of unfair funding and in recent weeks trades unions such as the NAHT and the ASCL have come out firmly in favour of a new funding formula. So many of parts of the country stand to gain if we get this longstanding problem sorted out and Worcestershire is high amongst those with most to win or lose.”

“I simply cannot understand why Labour would set themselves against fair funding and I still hold out hope they do not, but unfortunately it appears that in their rush to grab headlines over the school budget they have already made a fatal mistake. By protecting the budget against inflation but not against the growth in pupil numbers, they risk substantially cutting per pupil funding in places such as Worcestershire. I know that that would be unacceptable and I would urge them to reconsider as a matter of urgency.”

“It has been tough for our schools in recent years even without this kind of threat and I know that the £97 extra funding per pupil we won for them this year is only a small part of the help that they need, but it would be totally unacceptable if places such as Worcestershire, which have suffered from unfairly low funding over decades were to be hit with a cut in school funding just because Labour got their sums wrong. I hope the Labour leader will answer my letter and reconsider his position on this issue.”

“If he does not, I believe this is yet another reason why voters in Worcester should choose the competence of a Conservative government over the chaos of a Labour one and a Conservative MP who has spent so much of my time in Parliament campaigning for local schools against a labour party that failed on fair funding for 13 years and now risks cutting their funding.”

 

Notes to Editors:

For the latest information from the f40 campaign visit:

http://www.f40.org.uk/

For Robin’s most recent speech on fairer funding and the cross party debate he led visit:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmhansrd/cm150310/debtext/150310-0003.htm#150310-0003.htm_spnew44

For more detail on Robin’s campaigns on this issue see:

https://www.walker4worcester.com/articles/view_detail.php?id=398997845711c9142662e98a63743830

https://www.walker4worcester.com/articles/view_detail.php?id=17125d049040cd304eb731bfea717473

https://www.walker4worcester.com/articles/view_detail.php?id=c95ca28495ba884a1f06d231f58a4c20

https://www.walker4worcester.com/articles/view_detail.php?id=3c84f14aa1fb7539ac27a99dbdc15567

For the detail of the calculation on school spending see the notes below:

Yearly difference between Labour and Conservative Plans

FY

Schools Budget Labour Party Plans (£m)

Schools Budget Conservative Party Plans  (£m)

Additional Conservative spending (£m)

2015-16

£39,519

£39,519

£0

2016-17

£40,033

£40,180

£147

2017-18

£40,713

£40,952

£239

2018-19

£41,487

£41,669

£182

2019-20

£42,275

£42,297

£22

Total Spending

£204,027

£204,617

£590

 

·         In his recent Education speech, Ed Miliband promised  “the next Labour government will ensure that spending on our schools rises by as at least as much as inflation. In other words, it will be protected in real terms”.

·         This refers to overall schools spending and fails to take account of pupil numbers, which DfE figures show will rise at a significantly higher rate than that of inflation over the course of the next Parliament.

·         The Conservative Party have instead pledged to protect cash per pupil so that the overall budget will rise with the pupil population.

·         This gives schools the certainty of a fixed rate per pupil, no matter how much pupil numbers rise.

·         This will mean £204,617 million total spending on schools in the next Parliament.

·         By contrast Ed Miliband has said a Labour Government would only protect the schools budget in real terms without taking account of the rising pupil population.

·         This means that as pupil numbers grow over the next five years, the amount of funding schools will receive per pupil will decrease.

·         Under the Labour Party’s plans there would be £204,027 million total spending on schools in the next Parliament

·         This means the Conservatives will spend more on schools every single year of the next Parliament and £590 million more on schools over the course of the whole Parliament.