Government leaves Merton short changed

Merton is demanding a fairer deal for Merton’s children and council taxpayers after a Government school funding formula has left the authority severely shortchanged and unable to fund the new school places needed to educate the borough’s growing population of under fives.

Further capital funding is needed to fund the school expansion programme currently being rolled out to meet the increasing demand for primary places. So far, six schools have expanded their reception years over the past two years. Recent school admissions requests confirm this meets the current demand with only 40 vacancies remaining out of a possible 2280 reception places across the whole borough. However to keep up with growing demand, the council forecasts an additional nine schools will need to expand over the next three years, taking the total increase to 15 forms of entry since 2007/8.

The increase in demand for primary school places is a trend seen across London with many neighbouring boroughs making a bid for funding and being successful. However the funding formula designed by the Government to allocate the finance to boroughs has meant that Merton has not benefited, despite being one of the worst affected authorities in the capital.

Cabinet member for children’s services Councillor Debbie Shears said: ‘Once again Merton has been short changed and we are very disappointed at the Government’s decision.

‘The council’s case is accepted by Government, as they previously gave us permission to borrow money to fund some of the places needed. However we would not have got the funding for the borrowing that councils outside London get. We could not afford this as if we had borrowed £13m this would have cost Merton’s taxpayers £1.2m a year and put an extra £16 on the average council tax bill.

‘The Government has now rejected our bid for grant funding to provide the places by penalising us for having some unfilled places at the end of key stage 2 – yet we clearly cannot mix 5 year olds and 11 year olds’

Notes to Editors:
Neighbouring boroughs who successfully bid for funding were Kingston, Wandsworth, Lambeth, Croydon and Richmond
Merton hasn’t received funding from the government’s £200 million Basic Need Safety Valve funding because the formula used has gone against the council on two main counts:

1. Our allocation was reduced more than other councils due to a previously high (supported borrowing) Basic Need allocation
2. We currently have a higher number of surplus places higher up the primary schools (at the end of Key Stage 2) than average