LGA calls for council oversight of academy finance

The Local Government Association (LGA) has called on the government to give councils oversight of academy finances.

It claims that restoring local oversight of all school finances would ‘provide democratic accountability’ and ensure that public money was not misused.

The call follows recent scandals involving academy finances, with the LGA drawing attention to the staff at Kings Science Academy in Bradford being found guilty of transferring £150,000 of Department for Education grants into their own bank accounts; the fact that the largest 40 academy trusts have spent more than £1 million on executive expenses since 2012; and the payment of more than £1.3 million to a third-party supplier without contracts at the Perry Beeches Academy Trust in Birmingham.

These incidents have led the LGA to question whether the Education Funding Agency (EFA) has the capacity to provide the level of scrutiny necessary to catch fraudsters.

Richard Watts, chair of the LGA's children and young people board, said: "We are told that academies and free schools are subject to more financial scrutiny than council-maintained schools, yet we keep hearing that millions of pounds of taxpayers' money, which has been earmarked to make sure our children get a good education, is disappearing into the back pockets of those in charge.

"Parents have a right to know that their children have access to the best possible education and support at school – and that money for teachers and equipment isn't instead being spent on first class train tickets or topping up chief executive salaries. Effective auditing of school accounts must be in place for that to happen."

He added: ”With their experience in managing large budgets, knowledge of their local areas, and their reputation as the most efficient, transparent and trusted part of the public sector, councils are best placed to keep an eye on all school spending if they are given the power and resources to do so. Not only would this bring democratic accountability back into the process, it would make sure that the best interests of local children were protected."

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