HEREFORDSHIRE’S schools have been dealt a financial double whammy.

They won’t be getting any “basic needs” funding from central government for at least the next two years because they have too many spare places.

And there’s little more than £1 million for Herefordshire Council to spend on schools maintenance over 2015/16, with no indication of any more coming.

In addition the longterm bill for a backlog of urgent and essential work at schools – some recognised as unsuited to 21st century education – will run into many millions of pounds.

But with no basic needs budget at all, the only provision comes in sums that could be transferred from the maintenance budget or monies schools have available for themselves.

Over the past two years, the council has spent £864,000 on schools maintenance – £432,000 and £437,000 respectively.

This was cash the council could budget for.

With £1.2 million available for the foreseeable future, the council concedes that – at face value – it cannot “renew” schools.

This week, the council started a series of meetings with heads, governors, and Hereford diocese to assess alternative initiatives and spending priorities.

Jo Davidson, director for children’s wellbeing, said that capital investment alone now required a new 20-year strategy to maintain and repair schools to a specified standard – and ensuring enough “high quality” school places.

“We’re working closely with schools, governors and the diocese to review the condition and sustainability of school buildings, maintenance costs, capacity and pupil numbers and performance to inform such a strategy,” she said.

Pupil numbers determine how much money the county can get for its schools.

Basic needs funding is intended to ensure that the council can provide sufficient school places, but the authority says that central government has imposed a zero basic need allocation for the next two years because there are too many spare school places.

Some £1.2 million is available to the council for school maintenance over 2015/16.

But, as yet, the council has no indication of what will be available for school repairs beyond next year.

Academy schools can access their own capital fund from the Department for Education.

The first round of engagement meetings is underway in Hereford, Leominster, Ross-on-Wye, Kington and Ledbury and will end early next month.

Schools are expected to outline:

  • Backlogs of maintenance work.
  • The extent of investment needed to ensure “sufficient and suitable” facilities, including classrooms.
  • Use being made of temporary classrooms.
  • The need to make buildings energy efficient and disability compliant.
  • Compliance with health and safety, including safeguarding.

An updated progress report is due at cabinet next month and will set out strategy options on how cash for work on schools can be coordinated.

A report setting out the strategy’s specifics is likely to go to cabinet in November.

Based on provisional October 2014 pupil figures, primary school numbers – including nursery classes – are expected to increase in 2015/16 to 13,067 and secondary school places to 9,420.

But since the start of Herefordshire Council in 1998, primary school numbers have fallen by 1,163 from a high of 14,230 in 1998, a reduction equivalent to 8.2%.

Numbers are expect to continue falling at a similar rate until 2017.

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