A MAJORITY of Wrexham secondary schools have plunged into the red with their budgets.

And councillors on a watchdog committee have issued them with a stark ‘could do better’ report.

While the council allocates cash to each school every year, it is up to staff and governors to decide how it is spent and to balance their books.

But members of the finance and performance scrutiny committee heard that six out of the county borough’s nine secondary school are now carrying licensed deficits – which means they are approved by the council – totalling £680,000.

This compares to Wrexham’s primary schools which are almost £1.5 million in the black.

And the secondary schools have run up the deficits despite Wrexham funding all its schools at a level above the rest of Wales.

Chief finance and performance officer Mark Owen told the committee: “Six of our secondary schools are on licensed deficit and we have got to recognise that this is not because they are under-funded, it’s about the management.

“We are now working much more closely with the six to try to eliminate the deficits.

“It is something we need to look at and the schools are aware of.”

Mr Owen advised the committee that the “ultimate sanction” when schools are unable to tackle the deficit is for the council to directly take over their running.

Finance officer Ian Roberts, who is in charge of the department which advises schools on their budgets, said the reason for the deficits was that a number of the schools were struggling to adapt their curriculum and staffing numbers after a drop in pupils.

Cllr Alun Jenkins, Liberal Democrat member for Offa, said: “I have sympathy for the officers going into schools. “Staff and governors must listen, take their advice and then act upon it. I suspect that some of the advice is not being listened to.”

Cllr Mike Edwards, Liberal Democrat member for Marford and Hosley, said: “I am bothered that some of our school governors are not as efficient and trained up as our own officers. I think if training was given to members of school finance committees it would be advantageous.”

Mr Roberts said training was already offered to governors by the council.