The Scottish Government has made a complete about-face concerning plans it had to put the council tax toward raising money for head teachers. In its place, it will make use of its own resources to offer £120 million to schools, an increase of £20 million over what it had originally planned.
The decision came after hearing arguments from councils angry over of the decision to use changes to the bands in order to create a national fund for education. As it stands, the money raised from the changes will remain with councils, for a total of £240 million of additional spending to be put toward local government services. Despite this, many still plan on making cuts.
The government did note the importance of ensuring the additional money reach headmasters in an effort to increase attainment. The money will be put toward helping students from disadvantaged backgrounds by offering more money to those schools who enroll higher numbers of poorer students. Schools will receive the money in the form of a “pupil equity scheme,” which will offer funding on a per-student basis.
Initially, the plan had been to put the money that had been raised by changes to the bands into a national fund. Finance Secretary Derek Mackay had stated that doing so would not decrease the amount given to local authorities by the Scottish Government, although there would be an increase to the amount offered for social care.
“This Budget provides support for the economy, for jobs and for household incomes, through a fair and balanced set of tax and spending proposals,” said Mackay.
Concerning the 2017-18 Scottish budget, Mackay said that £120 million would be put toward closing the attainment gap, while money would also be put toward maintaining the councils’ share of capital spending with a £150 million increase from the 2016-17 budget. In addition, further investment would be made in the area of social care.
However, it will be left to councils to determine on their own how much money they will be able to put toward local services. The £120 million for schools will be given directly to head teachers to be used as an additional resource, reports Jamie McIvor for the BBC.
In order to pay for this, people living in wealthier areas will be expected to pay more council tax beginning next April even if their council does not put up the charge for everyone.
In addition, plans to increase free childcare in the country will continue with an initial investment of £60 million.
“I will not sacrifice the educational chances of Scotland’s poorest pupils,” said Mackay.
“I will not abandon our radical plan to give schools direct control over significant new resources,”
Mackay added that he does intend to ensure the rates and bands of Scottish income tax remain on the same level as the rest of the UK. The one exception to this will be the higher 40% rate, which will increase for the rest of the UK to £45,000 next year and £50,000 in 2020, while remaining frozen in Scotland at £43,430.
Other budget plans include a reduction of business rates, cutting the poundage by 3.7% to 46.6p, although the large business supplement continues to be higher than it is in England. At the same time, small businesses received an increase with the introduction of the Small Business Bonus plan which will place 100,000 out of rates altogether. In addition, they will receive support in the form of a new £500 million growth plan.
An additional £470 million in capital funding will also be put toward affordable housing.
“That is a settlement which invests in education, invests in social care and invests in local services,” Mackay told parliament.