Schools contingency fund will not cover Moulsecoomb Primary’s six-figure debt

A contingency fund for schools will not be used to bail out Moulsecoomb Primary’s six-figure debts if it becomes an academy as expected.

The reassurance was given by Labour councillor John Allcock, who chairs Brighton and Hove City Council’s Children, Young People and Skills Committee.

He told a meeting of the Schools Forum at Hove Town Hall yesterday (Monday 9 December) that he was aware of head teachers’ worries about a call on the £300,000 fund.

Moulsecoomb Primary School was £139,000 over budget in the past financial year and £144,000 overspent in 2017-18.

The council is responsible for covering any shortfall if a “local authority maintained school” becomes an academy.

And the school has been told to become an academy – despite a campaign by parents, staff and the council – after it was rated “inadequate” by Ofsted, the official watchdog, in May.

Councillor Allcock said that many schools would not be able to make use of the contingency fund it was swallowed up paying off Moulsecoomb’s deficit.

He added: “However, I would ask if we do end up with any underspend in the 2019-20 budget that we consider using this to support Moulsecoomb in addressing its financial deficit, whether it becomes an academy or not, alongside the need of other schools that may also meet the criteria.”

Last year £195,000 of the £300,000 contingency fund was spent helping secondary schools, with £105,000 drawn on by primaries.

Just over half went on rate rises for schools where extensions or new buildings had led to an increased bill, including Saltdean Primary School, Blatchington Mill and Longhill.

Almost 40 per cent helped fund one-off costs and the rest went to schools in financial difficulty.

The contingency fund was set aside for one-off problems rather than repeatedly to bail out schools with continuing financial difficulties.

Andy Moore, a principal accountant at the council, presented a report showing that 22 schools – five of them secondaries – have called on the fund over the past two years.

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