Council will make schools foot the bill for teachers’ pay rise
Richard Evans, local democracy reporter
Conwy’s cabinet member for education has slammed the Welsh Government after the council decided a £350,000 teacher pay rise would be funded by schools’ budgets.
The decisions was announced after the cabinet met virtually to discuss the council’s budgetary position where it was revealed Conwy already faced an overspend of £1.275m – a bill Conwy had planned to pay with its reserves.
But this figure has now risen to £1.651m, mainly due to an unforeseen teachers’ pay rise of 1.75%, equating to an additional bill of £550,000.
Whilst the Welsh Government announced it will provide £6.4m across Wales to cover this bill, Conwy will only receive £200,000, leaving a shortfall of £350,000.
The cabinet voted for schools to foot the bill, insisting education had suffered zero cuts last year compared to other departments.
Cllr Brian Cossey holds the finance portfolio and said Conwy were under huge pressure as the council’s social services, education and environment and roads departments all struggled with costs.
Cllr Cossey said things would likely get worse with the ongoing pressures of the pandemic, lockdown restrictions being lifted and costs such as the price of fuel escalating. He also revealed the council had lobbied the Welsh Government and provided evidence of the shortfall to no avail.
Cabinet member for education Cllr Julie Fallon blamed the Welsh Government but said most schools could cope with the bill.
“There’s no easy answers to any of this to be fair,” she said.
“It is hard to sit here and talk about teachers’ pay award and delegating that to schools; however, where else are we going to find the money?
“There is only a small number of schools where the projected end-of-year balances are going to be an issue.
“I think it is hard to say we will find this money elsewhere when there are so many other issues we are attempting to address. I think the most logical way forward is to work with the schools where this could be an issue. None of this is going to be easy.”
She added: “It is unfortunate that we are looking at a £550,000 shortfall for 2021/22 in terms of the teachers’ pay award and Welsh Government are telling us they will cover £200,000.
“Well, ideally I think they (Welsh Government) should have covered the additional £350,000. They can’t expect local authorities to try and find it. Education services are already really struggling to provide for what they do. So I think we have no real alternative, other than to support the recommendations (in the report), work with the schools where this may be an issue and for us to put pressure on Welsh Government to step up and cover the difference.”
Cabinet member for social care Cllr Cheryl Carlisle echoed these sentiments, insisting social services also faced huge financial pressures.
“I hope the Welsh Government listen to us,” said Cllr Carlisle.
“I’ve never seen anything like this, and I hope they realise the unprecedented times we are in and hand over the money.”
Although not a member of the cabinet, Cllr Anne McCaffrey was allowed to speak at the meeting and called the decision ‘immoral’, insisting the decision was a lack of foresight, adding school redundancies could follow.
Both Cllr Fallon and Cllr Cossey said they took exception to her comments and the vote was carried.
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.