Leading Article: Battles lie ahead over cuts in public spending

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The Independent Online

The message from the teacher union conferences held over the Easter bank holiday is a simple one and amounts to this: forget the General Election and concentrate on what will come after it. Whichever party wins the election, teachers are preparing for a battle over the cuts in public spending that lie ahead.

At the National Union of Teachers conference it was a case of a plague on all your houses. But it would not be correct to lump all the political parties together. For the Labour Party, the Schools Secretary Ed Balls has promised to protect front-line services but warned of £1.1bn cuts to administration. He said there would be a 2 per cent increase in pupil funding each year for the next three years under Labour – although if you bear in mind that inflation is currently running at 3.7 per cent this does not amount to a real rise in funding.

The Conservatives have so far not spelt out what will be cut to provide the funds for their new independent "free" schools run by parents' and teachers' groups. And the Liberal Democrats have said they will cut the Children's Trust Fund and reduce tax credits to provide £2.5bn, which would give a "pupil premium" for every youngster on free school meals.

But the Lib Dems' leader Nick Clegg has also said that no areas of the budget will be ring-fenced, which suggests he is keeping his options open. So, although there are differences between the three parties, what we should be pressing for from all three is more clarity about their funding policies during the election.

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