School budget report
Flintshire County Council’s Education and Youth Overview and Scrutiny Committee
will consider the feasibility of a ‘cash flat’ settlement to schools.
A ‘cash flat’ settlement means that schools will receive the same level of
funding as they did last year with no uplift to help contribute to the funding
of cost pressures such as pay awards for staff and the increasing costs of
energy, goods and services. Whilst the central educational budget within the
Council has been reduced by 30% over the last three years in response to
ongoing austerity for local government services, delegated budgets to schools
have not been subject to the significant efficiency measures and have largely
The estimated Budget gap to be found by the Council for 2018/19 is over £13m.
Through Stages 1 and 2 of the Budget setting process the Council has identified
proposals to move closer towards balancing its budget. This has been a major
challenge and Stage 3 of the process is still to go. There is no scope in the
budget considerations to offer schools any uplift in their budgets.
In previous years, the Council has been able to meet Ministerial
recommendations to provide a small uplift to schools’ delegated budget to help
with rising inflationary pressures and provide some protection to front line
education services. However, with the current financial situation, elected
members are having to consider all remaining options to try and meet the legal
requirement to set a balanced budget.
The Council and our education community continue to appeal to Ministers in the
Welsh and UK Governments to consider the impact of ongoing austerity on the
delivery of local education services and acknowledge the significant workforce
costs that changes to pensions and National Insurance have created. The Council
continues to demand that future pay awards should be funding in full over and
above a ‘cash flat’ settlement, and that assurances are received that any new
legislative and policy commitments originated by Welsh Government or Central
Government will be funded in full.
With the vast majority of any school budget dedicated to staffing costs it is
not surprising that there has been an increase in redundancies within schools.
Whilst this saves money, it also creates potential risks, for example, a
reduction in the range, quality and breadth of the curriculum on offer, a
reduction in the levels of academic support and pastoral intervention for
vulnerable pupils and possibly an increase in class sizes.
Despite schools having worked hard to ensure maximum efficiencies over the past
three years, 7 of the 11 secondary schools in Flintshire are in a deficit
budget situation and this is expected to increase. Head teachers are already
reporting high levels of stress as the impact of funding reductions takes its
Flintshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education and Youth, Councillor
Ian Roberts said:
“The Council is faced with major financial challenges and is having to make
some very difficult choices about how to allocate its limited funding and how
to find more savings to achieve a legally balanced budget.
“Setting a ‘cash flat’ budget for schools makes a significant contribution to
closing the budget gap but is not without major risks to the sustainability of
quality education services in Flintshire. Such a decision will impact all
schools but will be particularly challenging to those whose current budgetary
situation is less resilient than others.
“Schools have been proactive in adjusting to reducing funding levels whilst
focusing on maintaining the delivery of a quality curriculum and improving
learner outcomes. Performance at Foundation Phase, Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3
is currently at or better than expected levels and Key Stage 4, while still
below expected levels, has seen improvement in 2017 in spite of the financial
“There are few mitigations to protect schools from the impact of a ‘cash flat’
settlement following on from a number of lean years in educational funding.
There either has to be a reversal of the national policy on austerity or
schools will need to go even further in making local efficiencies.”