CLLR Mick Lerry’s comments in last week’s letters page demonstrate a worrying lack of understanding on his part. 

As lead member for children and families at Somerset County Council I can state categorically that my view, and that of Somerset County Council, is that schools’ money should be spent on the children in those same schools.

Schools control their own balances and it is not up to Somerset County Council to allow or disallow what they set aside. It is prudent for schools to keep some reserves. Some school reserves are for particular projects running over more than one year. Some school reserves are higher than others.

The arrangement agreed with the Schools Forum, supported by the members who are themselves school leaders, is for the possibility of a draw down, which could be used as an addition to the county council’s other reserves, to invest in services that further improve school services and outcomes for children.

No individual school’s budget-setting will be affected; the existence of this arrangement will not be part of any school’s consideration when they set their budgets. Should a draw-down from this reserve be made, repayment on demand will be guaranteed.

The county council has a number of financing options, in this case it wishes to be able to access the most appropriate source of funds for investment and transformation in school-based services.

This investment will only be made where it can be shown to save money and improve services, and hence the replenishment of the reserve will be made from those savings. 

The council, like all other county councils in England, faces significant financial challenges as a result of massive increases in demand for and costs of services for vulnerable children and adults.

This arrangement is a recognition that we need to fund the redesign of some of those services, aimed at our children in schools, and to address those challenges. This is financial prudence.

Both teachers and advisers within Schools Forum understood the nature of these challenges and are prepared to help and work together to meet them. We thank them for their foresight and support.

Cabinet Member – Children and Families