Peterborough’s school’s reserves bounceback ‘due to Covid pandemic’
School reserves in Peterborough have increased markedly over the past year, with the Covid pandemic believed to be the reason why.
Reserves for local authority maintained schools had decreased by £215,000 in 2019/20, leaving approximately £3.3 million as a safety net.
However, in 2020/21 that figured jumped up by around £1.5 million to more than £4.7 million.
Explaining the change, a Peterborough City Council spokesperson said: “This is likely to be as a result of the Covid pandemic.
“If more schools convert to academy status, school reserves will reduce in future as reserves for academy schools are not held by the local authority.”
For many months during the pandemic schools were teaching fewer pupils in classrooms, with priority given to vulnerable children and children of key workers.
Meanwhile, the council also received more than £900,000 of annual reductions in its contributions towards a PFI (Private Finance Initiative) scheme over the past two years.
This relates to a deal made by the council to expand and refurbish Ken Stimpson and Jack Hunt schools, and build the Voyager (now Queen Katharine Academy), which is expected to end up costing £115 million - nearly double the original £60 million contract.
The drop in financial contributions for the PFI scheme is due to a “reduction in liability,” the council said.
However, reserves for public health are continuing to fall,
The figure reduced by £355,000 to £364,000 in 2019/20, before dropping further to £131,000 in 2020/21.
The council’s public health grant is ringfenced, meaning it has to produce annual reports on over or underspending with the former requiring money taken from a dedicated reserve pot.
Finances have been tight in Peterborough over the past decade, with the council losing the vast majority of its main government grant despite demand for services increasing.
Peterborough is currently the fourth fastest growing city in the UK.
Earlier this year the council received special dispensation from the Government to borrow £20 million to cover its budget deficit. The authority said its finances had been decimated by the pandemic and that it had been on course to balance its budget (which it is legally required to do) before Covid struck.