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Bromley academy influx could mean tax rise warns council
BROMLEY Council has warned council taxes may rise to cover the expense of running 31 flagship academy schools in the borough.
This week the council’s leader Councillor Stephen Carr revealed he has written to Education Secretary Michael Gove outlining a financial crisis that could hit local taxpayers.
Almost a third of Bromley’s 94 secondary schools have been converted into academies, but the council receives one of the lowest central Government grants to keep them afloat.
Last year Bromley received government grants totalling £297 per head to help run services for the borough's 309,000 residents.
This compares poorly to the London average of £656 - with the highest in the country being £1,220.
Cllr Carr explained the Government has not adequately compensated Bromley for its success in setting up so many academy schools, far more than in neighbouring Lewisham, with four, and Greenwich (2), Bexley (17) and Croydon (13).
He said: "Bromley has been penalised for being proactive and ensuring a successful implementation of the academy programme locally.
"We are committed to having one of the lowest tax rates in outer London."
Cllr Carr also points out that the council provides academy education services at a cost of £70 per pupil compared to a national average of £170.
But despite the government introducing various measures to alleviate the problem of funding academy schools, Bromley still fears it may have to reassess its council tax rates.
One of these measures is the New Burden Doctrine designed to ensure taxpayers do not face excessive increases in their council tax when the council takes on new responsibilities.
Instead the government can supply extra grants.
Cllr Carr added: "We did foresee the problem of the government not putting in sufficient measures but we believe in schools having autonomy - that is why we have fully supported the academy scheme.
"There is now a significant pressure to hike up the tax rates.
"We must either cut services or increase taxes.
"Realistically we have a problem here but whether we're just short of putting council tax up five per cent I don't know yet."
However, the Department for Education says it is working to overhaul the system to make it "fair and transparent".
A spokesman said: "Funding should be based on pupil numbers.
"We have already overhauled the system and are improving it further so that funding is distributed nationally - to local authorities and academies - in a fair and transparent way.
"Where a local authority has high numbers of pupils being taught in Academies - like in Bromley - the central education services it has to fund will reduce accordingly."
Retired Pauline Perver, 81, lives in sheltered accommodation at Merlin Court, Bromley, but a year ago was a victim of council cuts when her 24 hour-a-day warden was taken away.
Now, after hearing of possible council tax hikes in addition to the service cuts, she said: "To be quite honest I would not like to see a council tax increase, I don't think anyone would.
"I am sure we would not mind if we were getting value for money but if it was someone saying simply that we don't have enough money then I think we might need some new managers."
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