Gummer dashes hopes of school cuts reprieve

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Indy Politics

Education Editor

Local authorities must tighten their belts for a period of austerity, John Gummer, Secretary of State for the Environment, said yesterday.

Mr Gummer brushed aside hopes of parents and governors campaigning against education cuts by insisting that councils could find savings this year and in the future. He told a press conference: "Local government like national government has got to come to terms with the fact that there is not the prospect year-on-year of continually increased resources."

Mr Gummer was speaking after a conference on environmental education where he shared the platform with Gillian Shephard, Secretary of State for Education, who has warned Cabinet colleagues of the threat to teachers' jobs posed by this year's cuts.

Governors and parents intend to continue their campaign and say they are determined to stop further cuts next year.

But Mr Gummer said: "I am interested in the degree to which some councils can use their balances and find a better use for the resources they have."

He said the cases of Shropshire, Gloucestershire and Newcastle upon Tyne, which have already voted to exceed proposed government spending limits or "cap", would be judged on their merits.

Last year, Sheffield succeeded in having its cap relaxed. Three other councils originally voted to exceed their caps but later accepted them.

tDevon council yesterday set its budget at £596.4m - £4.4m higher than its "cap" - and specified that the extra money should be spent directly on schools. The Liberal Democrat-controlled council warned, however, that there would still be "three-figure" teacher redundancies. The authority must now wait to see whether the budget is approved by Mr Gummer.