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Croydon gets extra funding for school places - but will still have to borrow £100m to meet demand

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CROYDON is to receive more money than anywhere else in the country to create new school places.
The borough has been allocated £63.2 million over the next two years by the Department for Education (DfE).
While significantly more than expected, it still leaves the council having to borrow £100 million, with the interest expected to be around £10 million.
Tim Pollard, cabinet member for children, young people and learners, said the funding package was recognition of Croydon's school places crisis.
Labour welcomed the settlement but said the Government should meet the full cost.
An extra 660 primary places will be created for this September and research suggests there will be a need for as many as 96 extra forms of entry at secondary level in a decade's time.
Despite this week's windfall, the council will not be building more schools than already planned - or refurbishing additional existing buildings.
Instead Cllr Pollard said it would be better placed to fund other projects which had been scaled back or shelved because the majority of its capital funding was destined for schools, such as investment in Fairfield Halls and improvements to the borough's roads.
The council is to spend £163 million on a huge school expansion program over the next two years. The settlement means it will have to borrow £100 million from the Public Works Loans Boards (PWLB), around £40 million less than expected.
"The capital program as it was saw pretty much all the money going into schools, because that's the overwhelming imperative," said Cllr Pollard. 
"We have a statutory duty to provide school places. We don't have to refurbish Fairfield Halls or resurface the roads. It meant there was no money left for anything else.
"This settlement means a smaller proportion of the money we needed will come from borrowing.
"But just because we have more money than we expected doesn't mean you're going to see gold-plated taps in schools, or that the plan has changed. The pressure is still there, but we won't be creating more spaces than we need.
"We will know more when we have a sit down and check through the priorities, but things people say they really value and feel need doing are things like Fairfield Halls and continuing the roads program.
"These are the things that get set aside but in this coming year we will most likely be under less pressure so we can be more flexible around the capital budget. That's where people will see the benefit most."
In January, the council approved the creation of 22 new forms of entry at primary level, eight from permanently expanding seven schools and 14 from bulge classes. Plans are underway to two open two new secondary schools.
The settlement for the next two years is around £33.7 million more than the council received for 2011 to 2013.
Cllr Pollard credited the increase to the strength of the case built by a specialist external research company commissioned to revise the council's own estimates of the demand for places.
The new predictions are based on Office for National Statistics' birth date, school pupil counts and transfer rates and London Assembly population projections.
"This is one of the occasions when spending money on outside expertise has really paid off," said Cllr Pollard.
Kathy Bee, Labour's education spokesperson, said: "I know there was a lot of concern about what the settlement might be, so to receive significantly more than expected is welcome.
"It still leaves the council with a big capital investment to make, and the Government should arguably meet the full cost, but this is good news and staff should be congratulated for making such a strong case for more money."

Croydon gets extra funding for school places - but will still have to borrow £100m to meet demand


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