Diabolical cuts to Devon funding

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Independent County Councillor Claire Wright, bottom right, says (see full post here):

budgetscrutinyjan17‘Fewer people are set to be eligible to receive social care in Devon in the coming year, following the latest required budget cuts, due to government austerity measures.

At the same time Devon County’s council tax is set to rise by three per cent from April, to try and cope with the latest massive loss in income.

At yesterday’s joint budget scrutiny meeting councillors agreed to urge all Devon MPs to speak AND vote against the council cuts debate in the House of Commons, which is expected to take place early in February.

Between April 2017 and March 2018 a huge £23m must be struck from budgets – a 15 per cent cut.

We are now in the eighth year of austerity and Devon County Council’s annual government grant has plummeted by well over half – from £283m in 2010 to £128m.

We continue to see our roads break and fracture. The government gives councils a fraction of the money that has been cut and the blames councils when it can’t repair all the roads. Some roads are simply deteriorating and will not be properly repaired.

Almost all Devon County Council run care homes have shut, Devon County Council run youth centres have closed and many bus routes were lost or cut back.

… Children’s homes closed and funding has been cut for vulnerable children and adults.

Last month, the council removed some of the schools’ budget for special needs funding to make its books balance.  This has plunged more Devon schools into an even worse financially austere position.’

Exeter & SW depend on EU trade

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Exeter is the city in the UK, and the South West the region, most dependent on trade with the EU, according to a new report. We already risk losing European tourism, which benefits Seaton and other coastal towns.

We should not be losing our membership of the European Single Market (which was not what we voted on in the referendum) for the nebulous prospect of a trade deal with Donald Trump, who believes trade deals should be skewed to the US, not the other party.

Once again confirmed, Devon is ‘unaffordable’

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Devon is one of the least affordable places in Britain for people who want to own their own homes, according to a new report.

Seaton Primary faces £34k cut

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img_9530-1220x640I have now seen figures (sent to schools as part of the consultation) which show the losses local schools would have taken if the new National Funding Formula had been implemented in 2016-17:

  • SEATON PRIMARY SCHOOL (right) £34,000 (-2.7% of total allocation)
  • COLYTON GRAMMAR SCHOOL £81,000 (-2.9%)

Axe Valley Community College funding would have been almost the same as existing (+0.1%), and Colyton Primary School would have seen a small (+0.7%) rise.

As Independent County Councillor Claire Wright said, the new system is supposed to be ‘fairer’ – but many East Devon schools are losing out! We need to press our MP, Neil Parish, to ensure that local schools are protected from cuts when the new system finally comes in next year.

The Department for Education’s consultation documents can be found here

Now it’s schools being cut

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Independent County Councillor, Claire Wright, writes (picture: Seaton Primary School):img_9530-1220x640Last week every Devon County Councillor received a letter from the Devon Association of Primary Headteachers and the Devon Association of Secondary Heads (DAPH and DASH).

The message is depressingly familiar.  And simply cements my long held belief that this government is steadily dismantling public services and instead squandering that money in tax breaks for the wealthy, government consultants, a third runway at Heathrow, a war in Syria and many more things that shouldn’t remotely be a government priority.

Like many other public services in Devon, including health and social care, education in Devon gets a rough deal in the government funding formula. It is near the very bottom of the UK league table on per pupil funding, short by over £290 a head, which is equivalent to a £25.5m shortfall across the county’s schools.

Devon County Council has lobbied central government on this issue for a very long time, unfortunately with very little effect.

Last year, there was an unexpected flurry of activity among Devon Conservative MPs, who were suddenly coincidentally apparently pushing at an open door. The outcome was the government agreed to introduce a new and fairer funding formula for schools.

Unfortunately and sadly, the government has backtracked on its promise to do this by April 2017.  It has been delayed by one year, leaving schools, especially those in our county, in limbo and increasingly desperate for funds.

To make matters worse, new education initiatives have been introduced by central government BUT without any extra funding to help schools cope. These include:

– young people with special educational needs now being able to remain in education until 25
– the removal of the education services grant from next year
– extensive house building across the county
– increases in staffing costs, including the living wage, pensions, and national insurance contributions
– the introduction of the apprenticeship levy from next April, resulting in a bill for Devon County Council run schools of £424,000

The ongoing financial situation for Devon schools means that 26 schools across the county are now predicting a deficit at the end of this financial year.

The letter, which is signed by Paul Walker (DAPH) and Matthew Shanks (DASH), paints a bleak picture. It states:  “…. Schools have financially now reached a real crisis point in the immediate future.

… “urgent necessity to take some very undesirable as well as far-reaching decisions to reduce costs in order to balance the finite resources available.

“Sadly, the implications of these decisions will undoubtedly impact upon the children in our care, including those from some of our most vulnerable families, and these will ultimately manifest further into the wider community.”

The letter urges local councillors to act on their behalf by lobbying education ministers to implement an urgent solution to “mitigate the impact of the present crisis.”

I will be writing to my own MP, Hugo Swire about this, but PLEASE, wherever you are reading this in Devon, write to your own MP and urge them to lobby ministers for more funding for our schools and retain the excellent education that our children deserve.

Green Wedge development refused

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EDDC has refused the application for a development including 150 houses on land east of Harepath Road, in the Green Wedge between Seaton and Colyford. This was a delegated decision, which did not go to the Development Management Committee, because planners, councillors, Seaton Town Council and Colyton Parish Council all agreed. The full reasons can be found here.