Councillor says teachers should ‘not have budget cuts hanging over their heads’ ahead of Gwent Council’s budget for next year

TEACHERS should not have budget cuts hanging over their heads, a councillor has said.

As part of next year’s Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council budget for 2023/24 schools are set to suffer a £3.6 million real-terms funding cut.

Schools will have to deal with skyrocketing energy costs, and other price hikes due to historically high inflation, with less money coming to them from the council.

The issue was discussed at a meeting of the council’s Corporate and Performance Scrutiny committee on Tuesday afternoon, February 21.

At the meeting councillors sifted through the draft budget papers ahead of the full meeting on Thursday when the 2023/2024 budget will be set.

The public consultation on the budget closed last week – with concerns about education funding scoring highly with the Blaenau Gwent public

Cllr Wayne Hodgins said: “At present our schools don’t have deficits, they’re in the black.

“Has there been any impact assessment done on how schools will carry £3.6 million in cost pressures.

“It’s a big ask at this moment in time.”

He pointed to efforts of by teachers and schools to continue educating youngsters through the Covid-19 pandemic that included online and blended learning.

Cllr Hodgins said: “Education has been a topsy turvy world for the last couple of years and I want to see some stability without having teachers and heads of department having all these budget cuts hanging over their heads.”

Council leader, Cllr Steve Thomas suggested that some last minute tweaks could be made to the draft budget on Thursday that could help schools with the burden.

Cllr Thomas: “We’ve had our consultation – it’s the biggest response we’ve ever had and clearly education is really close to the public’s heart.

“We can on Thursday when we put our proposals through we can make alterations to assist somewhat.

“It is anticipated that energy costs will reduce in 2023/2024.”

He added that the cabinet had met the schools budget forum who “realise the difficulty” of next year’s budget.

Cllr Thomas said “The message is that we’re all in this together.

“Wherever we turn with this budget we have difficulties.”

One of the concerns Cllr Thomas stressed was not to use too much money held in the council’s reserves in case they are needed to plug future budget gaps.

The council will decide the budget on Thursday, February 24.

It is expected that council tax will go up four per cent from April 1.

Due to the cost of living crisis the authority needs to find £6.7 million in cuts and savings to deliver as part of the 2023/2024 budget.

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