What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Education on the provision of financial support by local authorities for schools during the covid-19 outbreak.
We regularly engage with the Department for Education on matters relating to local authorities’ finances. We have provided £4.6 billion of un-ringfenced funds to councils to manage a range of covid-19-related pressures. The DFE has already distributed £102 million for exceptional covid-related costs incurred by schools and will shortly process claims made in December.
Many primary schools in Twickenham are struggling with the double whammy of the costs of making their sites covid secure and the lost income from lettings and fundraising, and the Department for Education has not reimbursed a lot of those costs. The Minister for School Standards has repeatedly told me that schools that have low reserves and face severe financial difficulties should seek support from their local authority, so will the Minister be making funds available to local authorities specifically to support schools in need? If not, will he issue guidance on the use of existing covid funding to local authorities, which is already insufficient to meet their covid costs?
I completely reject the last part of the hon. Lady’s question, in which she said that funding is insufficient. Local authorities are projected to spend £6.9 billion on covid-related pressures this year. We have already provided them with £8 billion of support and we have confirmed a total of £11 billion of support. We have allocated directly to councils £4.6 billion of un-ringfenced funds, of which Richmond has received £12.5 million. That means that Richmond can allocate funding according to local priorities—it is for the council to make decisions on how the funds are best used, including in schools. We recognise that councils are best placed to understand the needs of their populations. I know how important this issue is to the hon. Lady so am always happy to meet her to discuss it in greater depth.