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Article for the News & Crier: 2014 Budget and School Funding

2nd April 2014

The recent Budget has confirmed that this Government is striving to be the most pro-growth in living memory. I am glad that it is committed to providing the framework that will support aspiration and allow Britain to succeed.

Reducing the deficit is the most urgent task facing the Government in fulfilling this vision, and is the priority of the Coalition Government. That is why we have taken the tough decisions needed to reduce the deficit, heal our economy and keep interest rates low. By working through our long-term economic plan, we’re building a more resilient economy.

Our plan is working. The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics showed growth of 0.9 per cent for the fourth quarter of 2013. Meanwhile, the Office for Budget Responsibility has doubled its forecast for growth this year, estimating it will be 2.7 per cent. This shows that Britain’s hard work is paying off and the country is on the path to prosperity. Many risks remain, but thanks to our economic plan, the recovery now has real momentum.
There is no major advanced economy in the world growing faster than Britain today; we are now growing faster than Germany, Japan and the US. This shows that despite a tough economic backdrop, we are making progress.

Additionally, since 2010, the deficit has been reduced by a third, the private sector has created more than 1.6 million new jobs, 400,000 new businesses have been created and the economy is now moving from rescue to recovery. Unemployment in this constituency alone is now at its lowest level since the General Election and has fallen to just 1.8% of the economically active population.

With hundreds of thousands more people in work now compared to the time of the 2010 General Election it was also pleasing to see the Budget include further support for hard working people. When this Government came to office in 2010, the personal income tax allowance was just under £6,500. Last year the Chancellor committed to raising this allowance to £10,000 by April 2014, and has now gone further and announced the personal allowance will increase to £10,500 from April 2015. This means at this time the Government’s increases to the personal allowance will be worth £805 per year to a typical basic rate taxpayer, and over 3.2 million low earners will have been taken out of income tax altogether. This will mean lower taxes for around 96,502 people here in Huntingdonshire.

That’s nearly 100,000 local people keeping more of the money they’ve worked hard to earn, giving them and their families more financial security for the future. This is tangible evidence that this Government is giving real help to people who work hard and want to get on, both here in Huntingdonshire and right across the UK.

A few days before the Budget we had more good news for our local area; an announcement of more Government funding for our schools.

I have been campaigning during all of my time as MP, against Cambridgeshire’s position at or close to the bottom of the league table regarding school funding. I have made multiple representations to the Department for Education working with local Councillors, and last year led a delegation of all the county’s Conservative MPs to lobby Education Minister David Laws MP. The Minister said at that meeting, and subsequently publicly, that the system is unfair and that the funding formula would be reformed.

Since then, I have written to Ministers’ again to support local schools and have been taking the case up with local and regional print and radio media. The Cambridgeshire Schools Forum and the f40 campaign for fairer funding for schools, have been briefing me on the situation and I offered to help co-ordinate a further meeting with Ministers’ and other county MPs at the right moment.

I also initiated a petition calling for immediate action on this issue which has now been presented to Ministers.

In the Spending Review last summer, the Government announced that it would consult on how to allocate school funding in a fairer way. Recently the Minister confirmed that in 2015-16, this Government will take the first step towards delivering this fairer national funding.

The proposals mean that local authorities that receive unfairly low amounts of funding such as Cambridgeshire will have a significant boost to funding. Based on indicative figures, in Cambridgeshire we will see a long-awaited increase of around 7% to our schools’ budget.

That will increase Cambridgeshire’s per pupil funding rate from around £3,950 per pupil per year to £4,225 per pupil – an uplift in 2015-16 of £275 per pupil. On current estimates, this equates to a boost of around £20M for schools in Cambridgeshire.

I do appreciate that this is not going to send Cambridgeshire’s funding anywhere nearer the top; but this is a good start towards readdressing the historic injustice shown to our schools.


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