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Saturday, 27 October 2007

“And that’s just not fair,
  is it, children?”

Cast your mind back to when this ghastly closure business started. DCC pointed out that Combs School spends more money per pupil than other schools. Of course, that wasn’t a comparison with similar schools, just a crude comparison with all primary schools in Derbyshire.

Do you remember Alan Charles talking about that at the consultation meeting? He talked of his solemn duty with ‘public money’, and the need to ensure that every child in Derbyshire got the same deal. He even explained this concept to the children of the school council, with a weird analogy about why they should feel guilty about getting more Mars bars than other schoolchildren. He ended with, “and that’s just not fair, is it, children?”

Well, let’s look at another example of the distribution of public money.

Each year, DCC’s councillors get a Basic Allowance which is “designed to cover the time commitment of all Members in all meetings including those with officers and members of the public. It is also intended to cover incidental costs such as the use of home and private telephone facilities”. On top of that, a Special Responsibility Allowance is “paid to those Members who perform special responsibilities in relation to the County Council”. The council decides who gets what.

Let’s select a councillor at random, and look at the allowances paid in 2006-07.

Alan Charles, the councillor responsible for schools, gets allowances of more than double the average paid to all DCC councillors. He gets almost three-quarters as much again as the average DCC cabinet member.

Now, that just doesn’t sound fair, does it, children?

But wait a minute. Maybe the allowance scheme has been carefully thought through. Maybe some councillors’ duties are more onerous than others. Maybe their circumstances are different, and they should rightfully claim certain additional allowances. When asked, maybe individual councillors, such as the one above, could give a believable explanation as to why they deserve a significantly above-average allocation of public money.

Although it might not be the right one, there is a plan for spending public money, we can all see what it is, and they’re working to that plan.

Well, guess what? That’s how school budgets are worked out too.

Combs School has been allocated a budget, based on a plan devised by central government and the local education authority. Part of it comes from a fund to protect small rural schools, whose vital role has been heavily acknowledged by government. For that, and other reasons, the allocation per pupil is higher than it is in large schools where economies of scale enable it to be lower.

So Combs School is being penalised for working within the plan devised by its critic – DCC.

And that really isn't fair, is it, children?

1 comment:

combsman said...

You neglected to mention that Combs School didn't use all of its budget. I wonder how many councillors didn't take all of their allowance?