Delighted education bosses at Peterborough City Council have welcomed a bumper £23.1 million Government grant for new school places.
The sum has been allocated to the authority for the next two financial years as part of £1.6 billion in funding for all local authorities, announced on Friday.
It is about double what the city council expected to receive and helps it towards the £100 m-plus it anticipates it will need over the next five years to provide enough school places for Peterborough’s growing population.
Cllr John Holdich, cabinet member for education, said he was “delighted” with the sum.
He said: “It looks as if over the next five years we will need £117 million to address the extra places that are required and £23 million over two years is very helpful.”
He added: “Every penny we don’t get from the Government we have to find through Council Tax. The more we can get out of the Government, the better it is for the citizens of Peterborough.”
He said Peterborough’s school system was under pressure from the birth rate - the fourth highest outside London - and immigration.
The strain is most keenly felt in the city centre, where it is estimated an extra 2,000 places need to be found for the 2015/16 academic year.
It is an issue which Cllr Holdich, education officers at the city council as well as Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson, have been raising with the Government for some time.
Assistant director for education and resources Jonathan Lewis said: “We have all been pushing Government, saying ‘things have been really bad in Peterborough, we need more money’ - even this amount of money isn’t enough.”
Mr Jackson welcomed the announcement and pledged “the work continues”.
He said: “We have worked together as a team to lobby education ministers about the unique circumstances in Peterborough.”
He added: “I’m delighted the Government has listened to our plea. It’s not all the money the city council needs, but it’s certainly a good start.”
In addition to the £23,138,634 contained in the basic need funding, the city council was also allocated £3,368,820 for maintenance and cash which goes straight to the schools.