Powys budget proposals to education services prompt scrutiny

SWITCHING off the lights, and computers in schools as well as less use of external education consultants, could save Powys County Council over £1million next year.

Next week, Powys councillors will get their chance to probe the Liberal Democrat/Labour cabinet’s draft budget proposals.

On Monday, January 30, the Learning and Skills scrutiny meeting now chaired by Conservative Cllr Gwynfor Thomas will look at budget proposals for schools and the education department.

Earlier this month the cabinet set their draft budget which includes increasing Council Tax by five per cent.

The draft budget will see an extra of £4.5 million given directly to schools with a further £1.1 million for the education department.

Portfolio holder for finance, Cllr David Thomas has said that he intends passing on all of the additional education funding included in the settlement from the Welsh Government

But the sector also need to make cuts and savings as part of the council’s overall drive to find £16.4million to bridge it’s funding gap for 2023/2024.

One of the major proposals that will go before councillors is for: “utilities efficiencies in schools.”

Councillors will be told that £936,810 could be saved in schools next year in four parts.

Lowering the temperature in schools by two degrees Celsius could save £427,013.
Ceasing photocopying would save £242,982.
Turning off lights when not used would save £194,812.
Turing off laptops and other devices would also save £38,962.
Professional leader for school support services, Sarah Quibell said: “Overall, our assessment is that these measures will provide overall benefits.

“Individual schools will gain a reduction in energy costs and therefore, not need to mitigate by cuts elsewhere in their budget, whilst the council’s broader agenda regarding the green economy and progress towards net zero carbon will be enhanced by the reduced energy usage in schools.”

The report also explains that taking more direct control of aspects of the council’s schools transformation strategy will provide a saving of £300,000 over a number of years.

On post-16 education, the council proposes saving £150,000 by managing the transformation itself.

Ms Quibell said: “Changes to post-16 education in Powys would be done with the secondary school headteachers around the county.”

The report also explains that more work can be done in house so thar savings of £150,000 can be made on the “Secondary Investment Strategy.”

The contribution of £50,000 for the next two years to the now defunct ERW regional education consortium would not be needed and £50,000 that would have otherwise gone to consultants can also be saved.

Due to the demise of ERW the council has now set up a permanent Secondary Improvement Team and more collaboration between Powys schools is now taking place.

It is also suggested that there would be “enhanced” collaboration with Ceredigion Council through the Mid Wales Education Partnership, especially on Welsh medium education.

Scrutiny committee recommendations on the draft budget will feed into the final proposal which will be debated at a full council meeting on February 23.

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