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School places not at risk despite £74m funding shortfall, council insists

PUBLISHED: 17:28 02 January 2020 | UPDATED: 17:28 02 January 2020

New school places will still be provided in growing areas, a council has insisted, despite data forecasting an education funding shortfall of almost £74m. Pictured, pupils during a lesson. Photo: PA Wire

New school places will still be provided in growing areas, a council has insisted, despite data forecasting an education funding shortfall of almost £74m. Pictured, pupils during a lesson. Photo: PA Wire

PA Wire/Press Association Images

New school places will still be provided in growing areas, a council has insisted, despite data forecasting an education funding shortfall of almost £74m.

Ever more housing has prompted the need for more school places in Attleborough. Photo: Mike PageEver more housing has prompted the need for more school places in Attleborough. Photo: Mike Page

Norfolk County Council needs to spend almost £92m creating new school places in Greater Norwich to keep pace with growth in the district over the next decade.

And a £73.8m gap has been forecast between money provided by house builders to go towards these places and the amount needed, it has been warned.

But the council says this figure is a worst case scenario, and said: "Where school places are needed, they will be provided."

Developers are expected to pay more than £64m towards new infrastructure in the area in the next ten years, via a tax on new housing known as the community infrastructure levy (CIL) - of which £18m is to go on education.

Norfolk County Council needs to spend almost £92m creating new school places in Greater Norwich to keep pace with growth in the district over the next decade. Photo: PANorfolk County Council needs to spend almost £92m creating new school places in Greater Norwich to keep pace with growth in the district over the next decade. Photo: PA

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And council bosses have called for a bigger chunk of CIL money to be freed up for school places, citing the levy as the "primary source of funding for education in responding to pupil pressure resulting from housing growth".

In a report to the Greater Norwich Growth Board (GNGB), Sebastian Gasse, the council's head of education participation, said additional CIL spending on schools would help "avoid public sector borrowing" and asked the board to consider further requests to address the shortfall.

However, CIL is just one of four funding streams, as the council also receives money for schools through S106 agreements (the precursor to CIL); via grants from central government; from the Department for Education (DfE); and through its own borrowing.

Cabinet member for children's services, John Fisher. Photo: Broadland District CouncilCabinet member for children's services, John Fisher. Photo: Broadland District Council

A council spokesperson said: "The figure of £73m from CIL funding is a worst case scenario for that source of funding.

"We know which sites are earmarked for school building for all the developments planned across Norfolk for the next 10 years and all these school places can and will be realised."

John Fisher, cabinet member for children's services, said: "We've created thousands of school places over the last decade and have a good track record for ensuring we have the right number of school places in the right locations at the right time.

"We are proactively planning for the future. There are a number of ways we can find finance for school building and expansions of existing schools and we are confident that all required school places can and will be realised."

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