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Written Statements

Volume 507: debated on Monday 15 March 2010

Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 15 March 2010

Children, Schools and Families

Schools 2010-13

Over the past 12 years, our education system has been rebuilt on foundations of inspirational teaching, great school leadership and sustained record investment.

We have now almost 3,500 Sure Start children’s centres compared to none in 1997, nearly 4,000 schools have been rebuilt or refurbished, per pupil funding has more than doubled and over 42,000 more teachers and 212,000 more support staff have been recruited.

As a result, outcomes for children and young people have improved dramatically, we have many more outstanding schools and many fewer underperforming schools and our education system has gone from below average in the world to well above average. But our ambition is to have a world-class schools system in which there is excellence not just for some but for all, and where every pupil gets the support they need to overcome the additional barriers they face.

We set out the next stage of our reforms to achieve this ambition in our White Paper “Your child, your schools, our future: building a 21st century schools system”. But we also know that we will have to do so in tougher times.

In the pre-Budget report, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that he will protect front-line spending on the police, the health service and in our schools.

In the case of schools, we also know that we will have to make tough choices and identify savings across the Department of Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) budget.

Today I am setting out details of the savings that I have identified so far; providing more information about the real-terms rises in school funding to help schools and local authorities plan for the next three years in advance of further details in the autumn; and launching a further consultation following our review of the dedicated schools grant.

The pre-Budget report confirmed that from 2011-13 funding for Sure Start will continue to rise in line with inflation; funding for 16-19 learning will rise by 0.9 per cent. year on year with an extra £202 million this year to meet our September guarantee; and funding for schools will increase by 0.7 per cent. in real terms, which at current inflation levels will mean a cash increase of 2.7 per cent. This comes on top of real-terms increases of 2.4 per cent., or cash increases per pupil of 4.3 per cent., in 2010-11.

This means that 75 per cent. of the DCSF Budget has been protected and we can:

Deliver our pupil and parent guarantees including one-to-one tuition for all children in primary school and year 7 who fall behind;

Ensure there is strong discipline and good behaviour in every school;

Meet our September guarantee to all school leavers of a place in college or training;

Maintain our additional teachers and support staff;

And in addition, take forward our Building Schools for the Future pledge to rebuild or refurbish all secondary schools. We have announced a further tranche of BSF projects: £418.3 million will be invested across Buckinghamshire, Cornwall, Gateshead, Lincolnshire, Oxfordshire and Sutton.

By 2013, the Chancellor said also that I will need to find £500 million in savings from my non-protected spending, which, leaving aside the teachers’ pension scheme, accounts for 8 per cent. of the DCSF’s £63 billion resource budget.

This is equivalent to a 7 per cent. cut and requires tough choices. I have so far identified savings of over £300 million, including: £135 million from our NDPBs with significant reductions in funding for BECTA and the TDA; £100 million by ending start-up funding for extended services now that 95 per cent. of schools already offer access to them; £50 million by scaling back bursaries for initial teacher training now that we have a steady flow of new teachers; and £5 million in savings from communications budgets including by moving Teachers’ TV online. At the same time the Department will save a further £8 million per year from the costs of its back office functions, by sharing services with other Government Departments.

We still have further work to identify savings without cutting into programmes such as short breaks for disabled children, music, sport or support for looked-after children because I am determined to do whatever it takes to protect the front line.

Real-terms increases in schools funding of 0.7 per cent., or 2.7 per cent. cash at current levels of inflation, mean we can resource increasing pupil numbers—a projected further 80,000 pupils—and still increase per pupil funding by 2.1 per cent. in cash. This means we can resource our priorities:

Ensure one-to-one tuition can be maintained in KS2 and year 7 and expanded to KS1, delivering our “3Rs” guarantee;

Maintain the subsidy for extended services, supporting a richer and broader school experience for all pupils but particularly those from more deprived backgrounds;

Resource new or improved areas of provision, such as ensuring parents are able to secure a school place from the September following their child’s 4th birthday, as recommended by Sir Jim Rose; and

Ensure continued protection of core front-line provision for children in schools and thus delivery of our pupil and parent guarantees.

For the same period, we expect average cost pressures of 1.6 per cent. cash per pupil. This means that schools on average will be able to meet their cost pressures from within their overall increase.

The actual level of increase in funding for each individual school will vary. It will depend on each school’s own particular needs; local decisions about how best to meet needs; and the conclusion of the consultation I am beginning today on the distribution of the dedicated schools grant.

However, as in the past, we will protect schools by setting a minimum funding guarantee (MFG): a guaranteed per pupil increase in their like-for-like budget. We will, as usual, set the exact level of the MFG in the autumn, but it will certainly guarantee all schools increasing per pupil budgets in cash terms. Of course, the majority of schools will receive higher funding increases than the MFG—as is the case with three quarters of schools this year.

Every school faces different challenges and some schools face greater challenges than others.

We know that results have been rising fastest of all in schools in the areas with the greatest deprivation and the gap has been narrowing. But we have much more to do and we are determined to tighten the link between deprivation and school budgets so that schools with the greatest proportion of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds get the additional resources they need.

We have been reviewing the dedicated schools grant to ensure that funding is distributed fairly, transparently and responds to the needs of children and young people, and today have published the “Consultation on the future distribution of school funding”.

Currently, around £3 billion is allocated to local authorities as additional deprivation funding through the dedicated schools grant, rising to nearly £4 billion including other grants.

In the past, local authorities have not always passed on all of this funding to schools on the basis of deprivation and we have already made it clear to local authorities that we expect them to do so in the future.

But to ensure that all schools who take on pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds get the additional resources they need and still have the flexibility to decide how they use deprivation funding, it is also our intention to require local authorities to use a local pupil premium to distribute deprivation funding, based on their own local decisions of how best to measure deprivation and to increase it gradually before 100 per cent. of deprivation funding is passed on appropriately by 2014-15.

During our review, we received some representations that a nationally-set pupil premium should be implemented.

However, a nationally-set pupil premium would not take account of local need, would prescribe a single amount of funding to overcome deprivation across the whole country and would, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, require severe and immediate cuts to school budgets or other public services to pay for it. So it is also our intention that the definition and therefore the level of the pupil premium is agreed locally, so that it can properly reflect local need, circumstances and challenges.

It is however vital that all schools make savings to enable schools collectively to meet all cost pressures, ensure investment in our key priority areas, allow progress to be made on delivering a fairer funding system without creating damaging instability for schools funded at the MFG, and use their resources to best effect to maximise investment in improving outcomes for their pupils. So alongside a real-terms rise in school funding of 0.7 per cent., (a cash increase of 2.7 per cent.), we have also set schools challenging but achievable efficiency targets of 0.9 per cent. or £650 million across the school system as a whole which will enable them to meet cost pressures and continue to deliver improved outcomes for pupils.

It should be possible for schools, across the piece, to save in excess of this. We believe schools could go further and potentially make efficiency savings of up to £950 million, providing up to £300 million extra savings which could be recycled by schools to spend themselves on their priorities to support every child.

We published a discussion document on efficiencies—“Securing our future: using our resources well”— in November last year setting out the areas where we believed schools would most be able to achieve efficiency savings.

I know that school leaders around the country have recognised the progress that needs to be made and are responding vigorously to the challenge of identifying efficiency savings in order to switch resources to the front line. Around 1,800 schools have already taken up the offer of free financial consultancy support that we have made available to all maintained schools and we expect many more schools to attend one of the conferences that we have arranged with the National College, the LGA and other organisations.

We also announced last week that we will fund 1,000 more primary school bursars.

There is no doubt that this is a tougher settlement than in the past and tough choices have to be made by schools, by local authorities and by Government. I have chosen to protect front-line budgets, pass on real-terms increases to schools, make tough choices to find savings in the DCSF unprotected budget and support schools to make efficiencies. I have also chosen not to create excess places that would deprive existing schools of funds they need and not to introduce a national pupil premium that would require severe and immediate cuts to school budgets. I believe those are the right choices for our schools and for the future of our country.

I have placed copies of both “Investing for the future: school funding 2010-13” and “Consultation on the future distribution of school funding” in the House Libraries.

Defence

Borona Programme

On 12 September 2007 my predecessor announced (Official Report, columns 122-124WS) a programme of moves that would see three major military formations currently based in Germany relocated to existing defence sites in the UK, together with other unit moves within Germany that would lead to the eventual closure of Rhine Garrison and Münster Station with a consequential release of significant financial savings to the defence budget. The first formation to move as part of this programme is the HQ Allied Rapid Reaction Corps which will take place this summer to refurbished accommodation at Innsworth in Gloucestershire as announced on 15 May 2008 (Official Report, column 49WS).

Today, I am announcing that I have given approval for the next phase of the programme which will enable the rebasing of units within Germany. This approval commences the implementation of 26 minor build projects within Gütersloh Garrison that will allow those units that remain in Germany in support of 1 (UK) Armoured Division to vacate Rhine Garrison. As a separate but related part of this work we will also develop and rationalise the provision of service and infrastructure support currently provided in Germany by HQ United Kingdom Support Command, the army’s administrative headquarters. Taken together these initiatives will allow the Department to close large parts of Rhine Garrison in 2014, with full closure achieved when 1 Signal Brigade (7 and 16 Signal Regiments) moves back to the UK from its barracks in Elmpt.

The final two elements of the programme see 1 Signal Brigade move to Stafford and 102 Logistic Brigade move from Gütersloh to Cosford. While these locations remain the planned sites for these formations it has been necessary to delay their moves by two years beyond previously announced timelines in order to accommodate other defence resource priorities. The revised plan will see now 1 Signal Brigade move in 2015 and 102 Logistic Brigade move in 2018.

We will continue to work with all interested parties in the UK, including the local county and borough councils, health and education providers and the trade unions. In Germany we will continue to engage with the relevant authorities and employee representatives at national, regional and local levels. The German Government, as host nation, have been notified of these decisions.

As stated in all of our previous announcements, the moves that we are planning do not signal a change in either our commitment to the NATO Alliance or in our overall defence policy, nor do they devalue the continued close bilateral defence relationship between the UK and Germany. Although we may make further modest adjustments to our force levels in Germany, our plan, with the continued agreement of the German Government, remains to base UK forces in Germany for the foreseeable future in the form of HQ 1 (UK) Armoured Division and the majority of its formations and supporting units, some 15,000 service personnel.

Energy and Climate Change

National Policy Statements

My noble Friend the Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change today made the following statement:

The issue has been raised of whether, if an election should fall before the due Parliamentary process envisaged by the Planning Act can be completed, Parliament’s scrutiny of the six energy national policy statements and the ports national policy statement would be curtailed. We have no desire to short-circuit the process that has been laid down. It is a crucial part of the validation of the national policy statements. If the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee recommends a debate in the House of Commons, or any noble Lord tables a resolution on one or more of the national policy statements, and the debate cannot be held before the election, we intend to facilitate an early debate or debates as appropriate once the new Parliament resumes. It is not the intention of the relevant Secretaries of State to proceed with the designation process until such debate or debates have taken place.

Justice

Court Fees (Care and Supervision Proceedings)

I have published today Francis Plowden’s independent review of court fees in care and supervision proceedings. In May 2009, in response to a recommendation made by Lord Laming in “The Protection of Children in England: a Progress Report”, I asked Mr. Plowden to undertake a review to determine whether or not there was incontrovertible evidence that fees were a deterrent to a local authority when they decided whether or not to commence care proceedings. As part of the review, Mr. Plowden considered how budgets were allocated and managed within any local authority area, including how, and by whom, decisions regarding issuing care proceedings were made. Francis Plowden has presented me with a comprehensive and considered report and I am grateful to him for his work. He believes that, at the margins, resource issues, including fees, can play a part in determining when care proceedings are initiated, but concludes that it is unlikely that children have been knowingly left at unavoidable risk by local authorities. He therefore recommends that these fees should be abolished.

The fees for care and supervision proceedings by local authorities were increased in May 2008 from £150 to up to £4,825. To facilitate this, approximately £40 million was transferred from my Department’s budget to the Department for Communities and Local Government, and to the Welsh Assembly Government, for onward apportionment to local authorities in England and Wales so that the fee increase would be cost neutral for local authorities.

Francis Plowden commented that there was a sharp fall in the number of applications during spring and autumn 2008, which caused speculation that the increased fees might have been the cause. However, he believes that the introduction of the public law outline in April 2008 is more likely to have been responsible for the temporary reduction in application volumes as local authorities familiarised themselves with the new court procedures and carried out the work required. In any event, application levels have since risen and the latest data shows that this has been sustained with no indications of a return to pre-November 2008 average volumes.

At the outset of the current comprehensive spending review period, the Government responded to requests from local authorities by making an unequivocal commitment to ensuring that local authorities had a stable financial settlement for the duration of that period and that there would be no amendments made to their settlement other than in exceptional circumstances. Lord Laming acknowledged this in his report, commenting that in the event that an independent review recommended abolition of these fees, the appropriate transfers would need to be made back to my Department to enable implementation of such a recommendation.

In such circumstances, and following further consideration of Francis Plowden’s report with particular regard to the safety of children, I have agreed that the circumstances surrounding the recommendation to abolish court fees are not of sufficient exception to justify breaking the Government’s commitment to giving local authorities financial stability. I have also considered the fact that funding to cover the cost of the fees has been transferred to local authorities up to and including March 2011.

I therefore intend to abolish court fees for care and supervision cases with effect from the next spending review period beginning April 2011. Appropriate adjustments to local authorities’ funding will be made at that stage.

The safety and welfare of children is, and always must be, our priority. My decision today means that local authorities can now be certain that they have the £40 million funding for the next financial year to pay for the court proceedings necessary to keep children from harm.

I have placed copies of Francis Plowden’s report in the Libraries of both Houses, the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.

Her Majesty's Courts Service (Key Performance Indicators)

The following list of key performance indicators has been set for Her Majesty’s Courts Service for 2010 to 2011:

1. To commence at least 78 per cent. of cases within the following time scales in the Crown Court:

cases that are sent for trial within 26 weeks of sending;

cases that are committed for trial within 16 weeks of committal;

appeals within 14 weeks of the appeal being lodged;

cases that are committed for sentence within 10 weeks of committal.

2. To speed up criminal cases in the magistrates’ courts so that, for charged cases, the average time from charge to disposal is less than six weeks.

3. Time taken to produce and send court results to the police:

95 per cent. of court registers produced and despatched within three working days;

100 per cent. of court registers produced and despatched within six working days.

4. To achieve an 85 per cent. payment rate for financial penalties in the magistrates’ courts.

5. For 60 per cent. of all breached community penalties to be resolved within 25 working days of the relevant failure to comply.

6. To increase the proportion of defended small claims that are completed otherwise than by court hearing to 65 per cent.

7. To increase the proportion of defended small claims that are completed (from receipt to final hearing) within 30 weeks to at least 70 per cent.

8. Percentage of care and supervision cases that achieve a final outcome for the child within 30, 50 and 80 weeks:

At least 26 per cent. dealt with within 30 weeks;

At least 66 per cent. dealt with within 50 weeks;

At least 92 per cent. dealt with within 80 weeks.

9. To maintain the ‘very satisfied’ element of the HMCS court user satisfaction survey at or above the 2007-08 baseline of 41 per cent.

More information on these and other key supporting targets are published in the “HM Courts Service Business Plan for 2010-11”. Copies of the business plan for 2010-11 have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Prime Minister

Assistant Surveillance Commissioners

In accordance with Section 63 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, I have agreed to re-appoint as Assistant Surveillance Commissioners his honour Lord Colville of Culross QC and his honour Dr. Colin Kolbert from 1 May 2010 to 30 April 2013, and his honour Norman Jones QC from 1 July 2010 to 30 June 2013.

Women and Equality

Stern Review (Interim Government Response)

Following discussion with the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Campbell) the Minister with responsibility for crime reduction, I am pleased to make the following statement to the House.

In September last year, the Minister for Women and Equality and the Home Secretary jointly wrote to the Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, updating him on progress in relation to the Government’s consultation on violence against women and girls, and to inform him of our intention jointly to commission a review of the handling of rape complaints.

This review was commissioned within the context of the cross-Government strategy “Together We Can End Violence Against Women and Girls”, which was published on 25 November 2009. Copies are available in the Libraries of both Houses. The consultation for the strategy had found that women lack confidence in the criminal justice system (CJS), and that this was particularly in evidence in relation to rape.

There have been improvements in how the CJS responds to complaints of rape, evidenced by the increase in victims reporting rape and more cases taken to court resulting in more convictions than before. In addition, this Government have implemented a series of legislative and policy improvements to the way in which rape complaints are handled, and to ensure that there is a greater focus on victims’ needs. And as part of the cross-Government VAWG strategy, we made a commitment to exploring the feasibility of setting up and/or extending scrutiny panels, similar to those currently operated by the CPS in relation to hate crime and domestic violence.

However, high-profile cases in the Metropolitan Police Service had exposed how reluctant many rape victims were to report their experiences to the police, and that further improvements could be made in the handling of those complaints where victims did disclose. In response to these cases, a series of measures to improve the investigation and prosecution of rape to ensure victims received a consistent, high-quality service were announced by the Home Office in April 2009, including an inspection of police forces later this year by Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary. In addition, and as part of the work for the cross-Government violence against women and girls strategy, the Home Secretary asked Sara Payne to make recommendations on how the criminal justice system’s response to rape victims could be improved. The report of Sara Payne’s review was published alongside “Together We Can End Violence Against Women and Girls”.

However, we took the view that a closer look at the barriers preventing full implementation of current policy was required so we could consider further what more could be done to ensure the effective handling of rape by authorities and to deliver a better service to rape victims. On 22 September 2009, we announced that the noble Baroness, Baroness Stern had agreed to carry out an independent review into the handling of rape complaints, reporting jointly to the Government Equalities Office and the Home Office. Today (15 March 2010), Baroness Stern publishes the findings of her review and recommendations for change.

The Government are grateful to Baroness Stern for conducting this probing review and to the many organisations and individuals who contributed their views. The Government welcome her report and insightful analysis, identifying where further work or reforms are needed and setting out the case for embedding lasting change.

Baroness Stern’s review of services shows that strong progress has been made. Rapists now face more than a one in two chance of being convicted, and the measures which have been put in place to improve the response to rape complaints are having an impact, with much good practice evident across the country. However there is much more to be done, both to support victims and to help them have the confidence to pursue complaints, and to improve intelligence-led policing. We will be considering Baroness Stern’s recommendations carefully on all these points.

In the Government’s interim response to the Stern review, published today, we accept the direction set out in Baroness Stern’s report and agree that existing good practice needs to be spread throughout England and Wales to ensure that people have the correct advice and treatment, regardless of where they live. Her report poses a number of challenges, as well as 23 recommendations, which we need to consider before responding more fully later this year. In doing so, the Government will focus on eight key areas:

Tackling misconceptions about rape;

Forensic examinations;

Joining up services;

Confidence in the response to rape;

Special measures;

Support and advocacy;

Prevention and support for particularly vulnerable groups;

Dealing with misunderstandings about compensation.

Copies of Baroness Stern’s report have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and are available at www.equalities.gov.uk. Copies of the interim response have been placed in the Library and are available at www.equalities.gov.uk. The Government will make a further report to Parliament later this year, with an action plan detailing our full response to the Stern review.

Work and Pensions

Social Fund Reform

Today I am publishing the Government’s consultation document (Green Paper) on social fund reform. This consultation sets out the package of reforms designed to create a scheme which:

is simpler for customers to understand and use and simpler for our staff to deliver to ensure better value for money;

plays a more active and sustainable role in helping people resolve their longer-term financial needs and supports them to become more financially independent as well as dealing with short-term crises;

is set within the wider context of financial inclusion and education, and is aligned with the range of products and services that the Government deliver for people with complex and enduring needs.

It aims to align the social fund with the Government agenda of financial inclusion and capability, in order to help support the most vulnerable in society towards greater financial independence. It also presents our objectives to ensure that the system is fair, affordable and sustainable for the future. We believe that these proposals will make a very substantial difference to the financial environment experienced by many people.

Copies of the document entitled: “Social Fund reform: debt, credit and low income households” are available in the Vote Office and will be made available later today on the DWP website.