On 3 April, Labour’s shadow education secretary Angela Rayner slammed the government for a massive reduction of spending on children and young people’s services over the last six years. According to the Labour Party figures, spending is nearly £1bn less in real terms than in 2012.
This criticism follows a warning by the Local Government Association earlier this year that many local authorities are struggling to provide support for vulnerable children and families.
“Worrying to see funding has fallen so dramatically in the past six years”
Labour published its figures as it launched its National Education Service roadshow, a consultation taking place across England. Labour is seeking policy ideas for a “cradle-to-grave” education service which is free at the point of use.
During a visit to Swindon with Jeremy Corbyn, where all the Sure Start Centres have been closed due to government cuts, Angela Rayner said:
Children’s services provide a lifeline to thousands of vulnerable children and families across the country, so it is incredibly worrying to see funding has fallen so dramatically in the past six years.
The contrast between our two parties could not be clearer: today, Labour are launching a roadshow to help improve the lives of our youngest and most vulnerable children, whilst the Tories are presiding over damaging cuts, slashing support for those that need help the most.
Only Labour can be trusted to give every child the best start in life. Through our National Education Service we will invest in our children, halting the closures of Sure Start centres, increasing the amount of money available for Children’s Services and providing universal childcare for every 2 to 4 year old.
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According to Labour, planned net expenditure on Children and Young People’s services was £7,922,425,000 in 2012. In 2017, the figure was £7,611,364,000. This a nominal cut of over £300m. Labour said that it represents a real-terms cut of £956,880,000 – nearly £1bn – once inflation is taken into account.
This figure matches the government’s own published data [pdf].
According to the Department for Education (DfE), local authority spending on education and children and young people’s services for 2016/17 was [pdf, p1] £40.3bn. Even without adjusting for inflation, spending reduced by £0.7bn from 2015/16. The DfE’s own figures show [pdf, p1] reduced spending every year since 2010/11 and overall by 28%.
These figures also show that spending has decreased dramatically across all children and young people’s services [pdf, p3]. In addition, since last year, the proportion of schools with a surplus decreased by 3.2% and those with a deficit increased by 3.1% increase in deficits since last year [pdf, p4].
The shift to academies
The DfE notes [pdf, p1] the number of local-authority-maintained schools fell by 25% over the same period. Local government spends 69.8% of its children and young people’s services budget on schools. The DfE report suggests [pdf p3] that the drop in expenditure may be the result of more children being educated in academies.
Yet even if this fall in spending is a result of the increase in academies, this does not get the DfE off the hook. (As The Canary has reported, the Public Accounts Committee published a report criticising the DfE for its lack of oversight over academy trust spending and salaries.) Nor does it address the cuts to children’s and young people’s services.
The Canary asked the DfE for a comment but had received none by the time of publication.
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