Councillor claims 'dozens' of St Helens schools preparing to set deficit budgets

Labours Dennis McDonnell suggested the panel carry out a piece of work around school funding for the upcoming year
Labours Dennis McDonnell suggested the panel carry out a piece of work around school funding for the upcoming year

“Dozens” of schools in St Helens are preparing to set deficit budgets next year, a councillor has claimed.


The shocking claim was made during a meeting of St Helens Council’s children and young people’s services overview and scrutiny panel on Monday.

Labour’s Dennis McDonnell suggested the panel carry out a piece of work around school funding for the upcoming year.

The Billinge and Seneley Green councillor then said numerous schools in the borough are preparing to set deficit budgets for 2019-20.

Coun McDonnell said: “I’m aware now that there’s dozens of schools saying next year, we’re right on track for a deficit budget.

“Schools are not allowed to set a deficit budget.”

Coun Nova Charlton, chairman of the panel, said school funding is a “huge issue”.

The Thatto Heath Labour councillor claimed some schools have even written to parents to ask if they can provide stationery and paper in an attempt to save funds.

Coun Charlton said: “We all know that school funding is a huge issue and it’s become increasingly difficult for schools to manage on their budgets.

“We’re losing TAs (teaching assistants), we’re losing teachers.

“Some schools are writing out to parents to ask if they’ve got any spare pencils or paper because they’re trying to save wherever they can.”

Kathy Hall, head teacher at St Thomas of Canterbury Primary School in Windle, raised the issue of deficit budgets at the schools forum back in January.

This was after the school wrote to parents in November to inform parents it was predicting a “massive deficit” for the coming school year.

At the schools forum, Mrs Hall asked if schools would be allowed to set “negative” budgets for 2019-20, something that has not been allowed in the past.

Stephen Webb, the council’s finance manager for children’s services, said the council would deal with schools on an “individual basis”.

And in January, primary school head teachers across St Helens wrote to thousands of parents over fears budgets will be “unsustainable” by 2019.

The campaign was led by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) for St Helens.

Earlier this month, Andy Howard, secretary of the St Helens branch of NAHT, warned that schools in St Helens and around the country were at “breaking point”.

During Monday’s meeting, former deputy leader Andy Bowden suggested bringing in union representatives to give their perspective on the current funding situation and the impact austerity has had on schools.

The final work programme for the children and young people’s services overview and scrutiny panel will be decided by the overview and scrutiny commission next month.