A SENIOR councillor said she is ‘very disappointed’ in Labour MP Helen Jones after she criticised the council’s campaign to get more funding for schools.
Cllr Jean Carter, executive member for education, hit out this week after a parent who wrote to the Warrington North MP to express her concern about school funding was left ‘surprised’ by the reply she received.
Every head teacher in the town has asked parents to help fight the Government’s new funding formula, which will leave Warrington schools among the lowest funded in the country.
The new formula would wipe almost a quarter of a million pounds off school budgets every year, so parents were asked to write to their MPs about the issue.
One parent, who asked not to be named, said she was ‘surprised’ with the reply she received from Mrs Jones.
In the letter Mrs Jones said: “This is why I thought it was unwise when the families and wellbeing directorate at the council supported a petition to parents asking for a change in the formula.
“They did not ask my advice but had they done so, I would have told them that under the current government we were likely to get a worse deal than the one we already had. So it has proved.
“I have had some emails telling me that this is not a party political issue. I am afraid that it is.”
MP David Mowat has long campaigned for Warrington schools to receive a funding increase.
Portfolio holder for children’s services, Cllr Jean Carter (LAB – Great Sankey South), when shown a copy of Ms Jones’ letter, said the views did not reflect those of Labour councillors in the town.
She added: “It’s bad enough when elected members and officers of the Labour-run council get sent letters like this from a fellow Labour Party member but to now see that parents with legitimate concerns are getting similar letters is very disappointing.
“It’s interesting that the National Union of Teachers is urging parents to contact their MPs and sign a fairer funding petition, I wonder if they too have been told that they are being ‘unwise’?
“Let me be clear, the tone and contents of this letter are not reflective of the views of local Labour councillors or our values when it comes to representing our constituents.
“All of the councillors who I have spoken to are fully behind the campaign to get a fairer funding settlement for our local schools.”
Ms Jones said the decision to petition was made by council officers, not elected officials.
She added: “I have since tabled a number of parliamentary questions about the funding formula.
“The Government keeps insisting that schools are getting an increase in funding. This is not the case as schools know.
“The Government has also said that budgetary pressures on schools have increased by about eight per cent. Even if the Government was giving us a 0.9 per cent increase it would not be enough to meet the budgetary pressures.
“I have asked the government what assessment they have made of the potential effect on teacher numbers and the reply does not answer the questions. It asks schools to make efficiency savings. Losing members of staff is not an efficiency saving.
“Overall based on rising numbers of pupils we would expect to be increasing teacher numbers.
“It’s amazing that the Government can find extra money for grammar schools and more free schools in areas that they are not needed but no more money for schools in areas that are in need.”