Shock over revelation of £1m Wrexham schools overspend

Reporter:

Garth ApThomas

OVERSPENDING schools in Wrexham collectively went into the red by more than £1 million last year, councillors have been told.

The financial black hole was revealed in a report to the local authority’s executive board yesterday, which looked at the last financial year, 2009/10.

There were 10 schools in deficit across the secondary, primary and special sectors.

Among concerns expressed was that about half the county’s secondary schools were overspent.

Rossett councillor Hugh Jones asked how such a bleak financial position had been allowed to develop.

Chief finance and performance officer Mark Owen replied: “The decision-making lies with the governing bodies of the schools.

They have the ownership of bringing budgets in on target.”

It is expected that in the year going forward there will be seven secondary schools in deficit, one primary school and a special school in the second year of a recovery plan.

The revelation of the overspend came in a report that Mr Owen described as one of overall good news for Wrexham Council.

At one stage during 2009-10, with income going down and costs going up, it had been facing a large total overspend.

However, a plan to turn the situation around proved to be a success and at the end of the financial year there was an overspend of about £427,000, a situation Mr Owen said highlighted a very positive position.

However, looking ahead to 2011/12, the local authority is set to be facing an estimated shortfall of more than £10 million, although Mr Owen stressed the equation featured a significant number of figures which were still unknown.

Cllr Alun Jenkins said: “It is not going to be an easy year ahead. It is a frightening situation, but we are well prepared as a council.

“We have embarked on a transformation programme. We are going to have to make changes.”

Council leader Aled Roberts stressed the financial outlook for about the next four to five years was going to be very difficult.

Teachers at Darland High School in Rossett are in dispute with Wrexham Council about job losses prompted by the shortfall in the education budget. About 20 members of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) went on strike for a day and threatened further industrial action in protest at the planned loss of eight teaching posts.

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