Schools hit back over rainy day cash

STEVE DOWNES Norfolk schools have hit out at education chiefs over their attempts to claw back millions of pounds kept in the coffers for a "rainy day".

STEVE DOWNES

Norfolk schools have hit out at education chiefs over their attempts to claw back millions of pounds kept in the coffers for a "rainy day".

The county's headteachers have been locked in a two-year battle over how much they can hold in their end-of-year balances after Norfolk County Council twice tried to seize and redistribute some of the money.

And the results of a consultation with schools across the county are up for discussion today.

The situation came to a head in 2005 when it was revealed that schools had kept back a total of £30m that critics claimed should have been spent for the benefit of that year's pupils.

Education bosses tried to claw back money but ended up retrieving and redistributing just £500,000 after a bitter battle.

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Last year, the balances total was £25m - but the council decided against recovering any of the money after headteachers explained it was being held for "appropriate purposes", including staffing and future building projects.

The latest estimate for the end of the 2006/7 financial year is that Norfolk's 450 schools will hold a total of £13.1m.

The council has consulted hundreds of schools in a bid to draw up a set of procedures. But responses indicate that agreement is a long way off, with many saying they should be left to manage their own finances.

The issue has been subject of investigation by the council's school balances scrutiny working group. They felt £25m was too much to hold in balances across the county, and the proposal to allow each school to hold over up to 5pc of their final budget share could mean the overall level would be too high.

The results will be discussed by the council's children's services review panel.