Merton joins challenge to government’s academy budget transfer

Merton has joined forces with a number of other councils from across the UK to challenge the government’s move to reduce local authorities’ budgets in order to pay for its new academies programme.

Councils, including Merton, have applied for a judicial review of the decision by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to top slice local authority Formula Grant funding by £148 million for 2011-12, to fund payments to new academy schools (the Academies Funding Transfer). Money has been taken from all authorities whether they have any schools planning to become academies or not.

The effect of the Academies Funding Transfer will mean a reduction in Local Authority Grant for Merton of up to £462,000 for 2011/12 and up to a further £335,000 for 2012/13.

The money the government has taken to fund academies is still necessary for the council to provide services to children aged 0-19 irrespective of which type of school they attend. These include special educational needs transport, education welfare functions, home education, strategic planning of school places and children’s services. Merton Council maintains that it will not achieve any savings in 2011/12 if one or even several schools were to move out of local authority control.

Merton Council cabinet member for education Councillor Peter Walker said: “I am determined to do all I can to defend the education we offer to children in the borough. That is why I had no hesitation in joining other local authorities of all political persuasions in challenging this threat to our funding in the courts.’