Call for balance sheets of three Dales schools in deficit to be “scrutinised”

Askrigg Primary School

By Betsy Everett

The public had “a right to know” why three Dales primary schools were facing a deficit of nearly £100,000 in the next financial year, a parish council has been told.

Kate Empsall of Askrigg called for the balance sheets of Askrigg, Bainbridge and West Burton primary schools to be made publicly available, and scrutinised by an accountant.

“I was horrified to read in the paper recently that one of the options would be just to keep Askrigg school open. But the effect on Bainbridge and West Burton would be horrendous, and we should all be aware of that,” said Mrs Empsall at a meeting of Askrigg and Low Abbotside parish council.
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She was supported by Ruth Annison, another resident, who said a “forensic look” at the forecast deficit for the next financial year would be “interesting.”

A Bainbridge, Askrigg and West Burton (BAWB) federation governor, Martin Garside, had told the council that a series of drop-in sessions at the three schools had been arranged for Wednesday, October 4.

Governors had agreed to review the situation in the three schools between now and Christmas, and would listen to the views expressed. They had “fourteen different options,” as to what they might do.

“We would like to encourage people to come along and express their hopes and aspirations of what education here could and should be,” he said.

“We know we cannot go on in this way. We cannot go on as we are with the deficits we have. We have to work out how we can operate for the good of all the children in the schools.”

Asked why a single public meeting had not been called, instead of a series of crop-in sessions, Mr Garside said this had been a decision not of the schools but of the local authority.

“It was felt that in a public meeting some people may be afraid to speak up and could be intimidated. The loudest voices are often the voices of protest and others’ views may not be heard,” he said.

Parish council chairman, Bruce Fawcett, said communities were changing and the fact had to be face that there were simply not as many children in the schools as there used to be. No further action was agreed.

Note: The BAWB schools are facing a predicted shortfall of £95,000 in the next financial year, according to North Yorkshire County Council.