How the academies could cost the council £4m a year

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CALDERDALE Council could lose millions of pounds as more schools become academies, casting doubt over its ability to continue independently providing 72 separate education services.

The council lost £600,000 last year in Government grants, £1.1 million this year and the figure could be closer to £4 million a year by 2014/15.

Experts have told councillors they must establish a clear business plan for those things they want to offer schools, perhaps in collaboration with others, and decide whether they want to stop providing non-statutory services.

Thirteen Calderdale schools have so far become academies and seven more are proceeding down the academy route.

At any time they may decide to stop buying council services such as catering, cleaning, refuse collection, IT, legal, financial and management support.

“There is the potential for schools to buy back council services but there is a risk that as they become more independent, they may review how they arrange the services they need,” according to the council’s head of finance, Pete Smith.

A council survey shows that 86 out of 100 primaries use some alternative providers and most think council services are of variable quality.

Auditors Grant Thornton have warned: “The council has not looked at what is charged by others or by private sector providers, and therefore does not know if it is offering a competitive price.”

Gugsy Ahmed, the head of Parkinson Lane Primary in Halifax, said his school only bought about half the support services it requires from the council.

“We get better value for money elsewhere with things like catering and refuse collection,” he said.

Conservative leader Stephen Baines said the council had been slow to give schools exactly what they want.

“Now we must see if it is worthwhile providing all 72 services or whether we should become a joint provider, perhaps with another council. If that reduces the cost then it can be passed on to schools,” he said.