West Sussex County Council’s programme to improve and expand schools, including a £14m investment in Millais School, will go ahead as planned, despite a reduction in the capital spending grants from the Department of Education.
The county council will have around £5 million less than anticipated over the next two years as a result of last week’s settlement.
But cabinet member for finance and resources, Michael Brown, has signalled the ambitious programme will go ahead without any changes, and has ruled out having to borrow the money at this stage.
He said: “I am confident we will balance the books at the end of the two years through sound financial management, and taking advantage of any under-spending on projects.
“We are also achieving some very good results from our sales of surplus land and property, money which is ploughed back into capital improvements.
“The education capital programme is very important, particular as we are coping with a big increase in pupil numbers.”
The capital programme for 2013/14 includes a major improvement project of £14m for the Millais School at Horsham, which is to address structurally failing buildings.
The programme also includes £93.4m for primary and secondary ‘basic needs’.
This will allow schools to expand and improve to help deal with the rising pupil numbers.
The decision has been welcomed by Peter Griffiths, cabinet member for education and schools.
He said: “We have been aware of the surge in primary numbers for some time and will be providing an extra 6,000 primary places over the next few years covering all year groups.
“Local places at local schools is a particularly important issue for parents, and last September we completed 26 projects on schedule providing 597 places, and we have been consulting on other expansion plans.
“Over 1,500 additional places will be added at 27 primary schools across the county for September 2013”.
The Department for Education has also announced a grant pot of just under £1 billion for education authorities to bid against for high basic need pressures.
Peter said: “We are currently looking closely at the criteria to see if there are suitable projects in West Sussex that we can put forward.”
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