Two thirds of Richmondshire’s schools facing deficit

Classroom file pic.

More than two thirds of schools in Richmondshire are predicted to be in deficit in two years, councillors have been warned.

A meeting of North Yorkshire County Council’s Richmondshire constituency committee heard while spare funding at schools across the county was dwindling, school funding would be hardest pressed in the rural northern district.

Members were told as more of the council-run schools became financially challenged their abilities to stay out of special measures would be reduced, leading to more schools having to become academies.

They said it was “deeply unfair” the council then had to pick up the deficits of schools that are forced to become academies.

The council’s Conservative leaders maintain the reason why the county’s schools are facing financial crisis is due to the Government schools in neighbouring local authorities receiving considerably more per-pupil than schools in North Yorkshire.

The meeting heard while the council appreciated the Government was facing complex issues over Brexit, it would push for more equitable funding.

Gary Fielding, the authority’s strategic resources director, said while schools had been “pleading poverty” in the years before 2015, the drop in total balances schools in the county had seen since had been stark.

North Yorkshire’s local authority maintained schools had a collective balance of £33.3m in 2015/16, but the following year this fell to £25.2m and in £2017/18 to £17.9m.

Schools across the county have predicted they will have a collective balance of just £3.7m this year.

Mr Fielding said it was thought secondary schools would face the greatest financial plight, setting a collective deficit of £661,000 this year, where in 2012 they had had a £12.2m balance. Primary schools are expected to set a collective balance of £4.7m this year.

He said: “In Richmond constituency we are expecting 17 schools to be in deficit this year, but by March 2021 we’re expecting there to be 36 schools in deficit. That’s over two-thirds of the schools, so it more than doubles from the position at the moment.

“That is very worrying. An average primary deficit over that time will go from £34,000 to £64,000 and for the average secondary school from a deficit of £373,000 to £983,000.”