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Schools budget spared £8m cuts but government underfunding persists - Farron

October 4, 2016 4:13 PM

South Lakeland MP Tim Farron has welcomed the news that recommendations to recoup the £8million High Needs Overspend from the Schools budget of Cumbrian schools have been withdrawn. However, Tim has insisted that the government must properly fund Cumbria's High Needs Budget, adding that "Government underfunding continues to hurt the neediest pupils".

Tim has met this week with a number of Head Teachers of both primary and secondary schools in the area and with senior councillors in order to help find an agreement that will protect schools' budgets. There had been fears that schools would have had to find up to £8million from their budgets to cover a shortfall in the High Needs budget. However, the Schools Forum has now decided that it will not recommend these plans.

Cumbria's High Needs Budget faces this deficit because the government's funding is based on the figures for 2013. In addition to the fact that there was a budget underspend in that year, the number of students in Cumbria eligible for assistance from this budget has increased by 80% since 2013.

Over the coming weeks, the Schools Forum will look at ways to reduce the deficit within the High Needs Budget in the short term and to address the overspend in the long term. The Schools Forum will then make final recommendations to the County Council.

Tim said: "I am grateful to schools and to the council for working together to reach this position, which will help ensure that the schools block of the budget will not face such massive cuts.

"However, although school budgets will now be protected from these cuts, the fact remains that there is still a significant shortfall in the funding that is needed for Cumbria's High Needs Budget.

"Government underfunding continues to hurt the neediest pupils. I will continue to push the government to increase the funding given to Cumbria's High Needs Block, so that it reflects the massive increase in demand that this budget has faced. The government is letting down those in Cumbria with additional needs."