Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Schools losing out while £15m is 'wasted'

I WAS pleased to see articles in the Belfast Telegraph highlighting the proposed raid on school funds under the guise of changes to the common funding scheme (News, July 8).

At the last education committee meeting in Stormont, which I chaired, I raised my concerns with senior officials in the Department of Education on three occasions. I asked how these figures will affect individual schools. I also voiced concerns that the basis of reworking the VAT calculations and the new free school meals together was flawed, if done without Treasury verification.

Anyone who has had to work VAT non-payment and/or reclaims through their accounts knows it is not straightforward and often needs to be agreed with HMRC first. It was clear the department had not done this.

The vast majority of schools are now set to lose out under this deeply flawed and contradictory proposal. What makes these cuts more repulsive is the fact that the minister and his department have been content to waste more than £15m on the Education and Skills Authority – a body whose chief executive-designate has been in post since February 2007 yet doesn't even officially exist yet.

Maybe the minister would be better off sorting out the mess at his own feet before reducing schools' already limited resources.

DANNY KINAHAN MLA

UUP education spokesperson

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