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Local Management Of Schools

Volume 174: debated on Monday 18 June 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what proportion of education spending has been held back from local management of schools by each local education authority in Wales; and if he will make a statement.

I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for your felicitious greeting and I thank the House for its generous approbation.

The average figure is around 33 per cent. I will circulate the figures for each local education authority in the, Official Report, and I will place a copy in the Library of the House.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister, the most Welsh of all Welsh hon. Members, on a richly deserved honour that is warmly welcomed throughout Wales.

I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree that 33 per cent. is too high. What steps will he take to urge all councils to follow the example of my local council in trying to ensure that as much money as possible makes its way to schools? What assurance can parents obtain that their own local schools will have a fair crack of the whip, bearing in mind that major repairs and capital works are still excluded from LMS schemes?

My hon. Friend is quite right. Of course, about 10 per cent. is allowed to be held centrally under LMS schemes as submitted to us, but that leaves a considerable amount at the discretion of local authorities. On average, authorities have held back about 22·5 per cent., but that masks a wide variation from 17 to 27·5 per cent. Certainly, as LMS schemes proceed, I should expect to see a rapid reduction in the proportion of resources retained centrally. I am sure that governors, headmasters and so on will be looking forward to seeing LMS statements produced by local authorities which show just where the money is going.

Does the Minister accept that in rural Wales, particularly in Powys, formula funding is beginning to cause extreme hardship to village schools and that some may close as a result? Will he review the situation so that more resources are made available for the funding of village schools under LMS schemes?

The totality of resources available for education has not been reduced at all under LMS schemes. Through LMS schemes, we have tried to ensure that as much of the money as possible is spent directly at the chalk face. With regard to small schools, about which the hon. Gentleman is concerned, a factor called the small schools protection factor could have been built in, and I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman's local authority would take such a factor into its scheme.

Following is the information:

Percentage of general schools budget retained by LEA

Mid Glamorgan32·71
South Glamorgan24·81
West Glamorgan31·77

The details of this information have been extracted from each authority's LMS scheme submission and are not strictly comparable because the information has been supplied using different price bases. Precise figures will be included in the LEAs' first LMS budget statements, which are currently awaited.