No.6 of Session 2008-09
7 January 2009

MPs predict belt-tightening for schools and children's services

Plans must be made for schools and children's services to cope with a much more austere future, warns a report today by the Children, Schools and Families Committee.

In its annual examination of the Department for Children, Schools and Families' (DCSF) spending, the Committee predicts that future funding will be much tighter than at present and the rate of spending growth will be minimal come the next Spending Review.

The Committee is pleased that the Government has reaffirmed its commitment to capital investment in education, but there is concern that the review of Building Schools for the Future will lead to the programme being curtailed. To avoid doubt, the Department should make a clear statement about the programme's future.

The Committee identifies key problems with the presentation of expenditure figures in the report, including confusion about which expenditure streams or grants deliver which objectives, and calls on the Department to rectify these problems in its next Annual Report.

To ensure real accountability, staging points must be included for long term Public Service Agreement (PSA) targets. In order to assess whether these targets have been met, it is imperative that DCSF does not revise them at every three-yearly spending review.

The Committee is disappointed that details on how DCSF achieved its efficiency savings are vague and it expects much more of the promised detail in the 2009 Departmental Annual Report.

The Chairman of the Committee, Barry Sheerman MP, said:

"We were greatly concerned by a lack of clarity in the presentation of some of Department's expenditure figures. It is vital that our scrutiny is not hindered by confusion over which spending streams relate to which objectives, and we've asked the Department not only for better and clearer presentation, but for much more detail in their 2009 Annual Report."