A COUNCILLOR in Monmouthshire has blamed the first reported collective school deficit in six years on “deliberate cuts” imposed by the Conservative majority council.

Labour group leader Cllr Dimitri Batrouni, member for St Christopher’s, said cutbacks over the last four years were to blame for the “dire situation” which has a £428,000 deficit forecast for the coming year.

This is the first time since 2011/12 - when the balance was £965,000 in credit - that the end of year collective school balances have dropped into the red.

A financial report shown in June revealed positive balances since then as being £1.24 million in 2012/13, £988,000 in 2013/14, £1.14 million in 2014/15, £1.15 million in 2015/16, and £269,000 in 2016/17.

Despite the 2017/18 figures being in breach of the council’s fair funding regulations, the council cabinet recommended that an exception be made in this instance.

“This is the first time in recent history when the council has forecast Monmouthshire schools in a negative financial position,” said Cllr Batrouni.

“The situation has got so bad that the Tory council has had to suspend its own fair funding formula for schools,” said Cllr Batrouni.

“Every cut has been opposed by the Labour group. They have blamed everyone else for this problem, but they only need to look in the mirror.

Last week the Argus reported that six schools in Monmouthshire have met with finance officers to discuss how the aim to reduce the deficits.

But Cllr Richard John, cabinet member for children and young people, believes there have been encouraging signs despite the projection.

The member for Mitchel Troy said: “We have not suspended our fair funding formula. However, we are projecting a collective deficit at the end of this financial year but have already seen a considerable improvement in school budgets this year.

“The scale of the projected deficit is being driven by substantial financial challenges in two secondary schools, largely due to the decision of the Labour-run Welsh Government to slash post-16 funding and consistently give Monmouthshire the worst level of funding of any local authority in Wales.

“Despite these pressures, latest data shows Monmouthshire is the best or second best performing of 22 Welsh councils in the Foundation Phase, Key Stages 2 and 3 and has some of Wales’ top GCSE and A Level results.”