School budgets more than Â£5million in the red, councillors told
Cash-strapped schools in County Durham were short more than Â£5million from their budgets by the end of the last financial year.
According to figures from Durham County Council, 20 of the county’s maintained schools had a combined deficit £5.633million as of March 31.
However, the local authority also expects 15 of these schools to be back in the black by April next year.
“We have a number of schools that have significant budget issues,” said Coun Alan Napier, the deputy leader of the council at a meeting of the cabinet.
“It’s important we identify budget issues as soon as possible, it’s in no one’s interests for schools to continue setting deficit budgets.”
The schools budgets deficit had grown by about a third from March 31 last year, up by £1.462 million and with an additional four schools dragged into the red.
In Peterlee, although St Bede’s Catholic Comprehensive School managed to end 2017/18 £159,000 in the black, it expects to finish this year £508,000 over budget.
This is predicted to rise to £1.709million by the end of 2020/21.
Wellfield Community School, in Wingate, set a balanced budget for this year, leaving it with a deficit of £3.393million.
And according to a report prepared for cabinet this will shrink to £2.66million by the end of 2020/21.
But in Weardale, where the council says it is seeking a ‘financially sustainable solution … that recognises the relatively small number of pupils’, the budget deficit for Wolsingham School is predicted to rise by more than £1million in two years, from £1.737million at the end of the current financial year to £2.837 by the end of 2020/21.
Presenting the figures to cabinet, Coun Olwyn Gunn said: “I find strong evidence of the impact our finance and education officers have on schools, with the vast majority either managing in increasingly difficult financial conditions or being able to see their way out of financial problems.
“More schools are operating in deficit, but it’s a positive message that so many Durham schools are budgeting prudently and operating within their means.”
James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service