Region's schools hoarding more than £23m

YORKSHIRE schools are sitting on more than £23m of taxpayers' cash in breach of national targets at a time when councils face losing the power to claw the money back.

New figures reveal that more than in one in five schools in the region finished 2009/10 with an "excessive surplus" above the agreed limit.

There were 499 schools in Yorkshire with excessive levels of cash sat unspent in their bank accounts. Nationally 6,014 schools had hoarded more than 400m above what they are supposed to keep.

Under current rules local councils can claw back funds from schools which hold on to too much money.

Education authorities can intervene if a secondary school has a surplus worth more than five per cent of its budget. Primary and special schools are allowed to keep a surplus worth up to eight per cent of their budgets.

Statistics published yesterday by the Department for Education show that 23m of the money schools have held onto in Yorkshire is above these limits.

The coalition Government is, however, planning on getting rid of local councils' ability to claw back the cash.

Barnsley had the highest level of schools with excessive amounts of cash in the bank with 45 per cent of its schools having surpluses above the five and eight per cent targets.

The number of schools with an excessive surplus in Yorkshire dropped compared with the previous year from 543 to 499 and the overall surplus level above the agreed limit fell from 30,495,011 to 23,091,443.

Across the region 91 per cent of schools finished the year in surplus worth a total of 164.6m in 2009/10 while just over eight per cent of schools were in debts totalling 12.5m.

North Lincolnshire had the highest level of schools in deficit in the country. Almost one in three were in the red at the end of the 2009/10.

There were 23 North Lincolnshire schools said to be in deficit – 28.8 per cent of those in the district.

Of the 164.6m sat in Yorkshire school bank accounts – 107.9m was said to be committed while there were no plans in place for around 55m. Twenty two per cent of schools in Yorkshire held onto an excessive surplus last year this – the second lowest level of any Government region in England and well below the national level of 27 per cent.

Ministers are set to review the guidelines on what is deemed as an excessive school surplus.

A Department for Education spokesman said: "We believe that schools know best how to spend their money.

"Every school should be working continuously to improve its financial management, including effective budget planning, to ensure it continues to deliver effectively for its pupils.

"That's why we announced in the White Paper that we would be removing the requirement for local authorities to have a claw-back mechanism. We will be reviewing guidance on claw-back arrangements including on the level of balances deemed to be excessive."

Nationally there was a drop in the number of schools holding any extra cash in 2009/10 compared with the previous year. There were 19,668 schools in the country finishing the year with an overall surplus of 1.8bn in the last academic year compared with 20,081 schools holding a surplus of 1.9bn in 2008/09.

There was, however, a rise in the number of schools in debt.

Some 1,968 schools showed a deficit in 2009/10, up from 1,848 a year before. The average deficit per school in 2009/10 was 82,022, with 9.1 per cent of all schools in the red. In Yorkshire this figure was 8.3 per cent.