Laws leads attack on Brown’s schools cash raid

by Stephen Tall on October 25, 2007

Gold star for David Laws, Lib Dem shadow secretary of state for children and schools, for first spotting and highlighting Labour’s plans to confiscate 5% of school cash balances.

Here’s what The Guardian says this morning in its article, Lib Dems attack plans to reclaim schools’ cash:

… the Lib Dem schools spokesman, David Laws, who has led the campaign for the proposal to be scrapped, said: “The prime minister doesn’t seem to realise that almost two-thirds of existing school balances are already committed to buildings and other projects.

“This plan to tax prudent schools is daft and characteristic of a government which thinks it knows better than individual school leaders. This dotty idea must not be allowed to continue.”

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Labour really is like the bossy girl with plaits in groupwork at school who hoards all the sugar paper and decides who gets which colour marker pen. (I was scarred, ok?)

Are there any accountants in the house who have done school audits? In charity accounting you nominate quantified uses for your reserves (keeps the LA off your back if they fund you) – don’t schools tend to do the same? It would solve the problem at a stroke if this information were collated by the government from Companies House and analysed for the abusers. Or even on yet another form if they really insist.

by Alix on October 25, 2007 at 9:47 am. Reply #

David Laws really should be more prominent when we have a new leader.

by Simon on October 25, 2007 at 5:59 pm. Reply #

Local authorities do analyse the surpluses and require schools to indicate how they propose to spend them. Problem is very large numbers do not have serious uses for them or in some cases decline to give reasons. Very little can be done. The current proposal is draconian but it is also wrong that schools should be sitting on such vast sums of public cash. In Birmingham there is some £60 million sitting in school reserves. David wasn’t at the children’s conference last week where this was discussed by the Lib Dem group.

by Jon Hunt on October 25, 2007 at 6:19 pm. Reply #

Well said, Jon. Some schools are keeping ridiculous amounts in reserves for no specific purpose. The money given to schools is there to teach our kids now and with as much as £1,700,000,000 in reserves, for once, I agree with Labour!

by Martin Land on October 25, 2007 at 6:27 pm. Reply #

Taxing savings is just another way of encouraging schools to spend more money than they need to.

I’d have thought that investing in infrastructure is every bit as important as the operational running of the school. It’s almost as if Brown wants schools to conform to public service stereotypes of extreme under-investment.

by Peter Bancroft on October 25, 2007 at 6:48 pm. Reply #

2. Its a pity david Laws isn’t going to be our new Leader…

I agree it does seem perverse that quite so much cash is sitting around but you can’t devolve power and then moan when people do thing with it you don’t like. I actually don’t doubt that Labour is being well motivated but its over centralised and dictatorial.

by David Morton on October 25, 2007 at 7:17 pm. Reply #

I’m a former chair of finance at an Islington secondary school. A very high proportion of school budgets are tied up in staffing costs. Schools have virtually no revenue generating ability; therefore budget flexibility is minimal.

I agree with David @6 – Government cannot on the one hand talk about empowering schools and on the other take back money when they don’t approve of how schools use it.

A more liberal solution to better-off schools hoarding reserves would be to direct more money to poorer communities in the first place. Pupil premium, anyone?

by Bridget Fox on October 25, 2007 at 8:17 pm. Reply #

Bridget – are we sure it is schools with affluent kids who are hoarding the money? But agree both with the pupil premium and that schools should be allowed to save money to spend later, if that is what they want to do.

by tim leunig on October 25, 2007 at 11:16 pm. Reply #

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