Funding for high school despite budget cuts

An artist's impression by AHR Architects submitted with the planning application for the new Duchess's Community High School.
An artist's impression by AHR Architects submitted with the planning application for the new Duchess's Community High School.

The county council proposes to cut £44million from its budget over the next two years, but there is still money for Alnwick’s high school and a new leisure centre in Hadston.

Northumberland County Council has unveiled its proposals for the period from 2015 to 2017, which will eventually be approved by the full council in February next year.

Despite the swingeing cuts continuing, there is money allocated for a number of capital projects in north Northumberland, including the Duchess’s Community High School in Alnwick.

There is £7.4million for the three schools to be rebuilt in Northumberland via the county council’s contribution to the Government’s Priority School Building Programme.

There is another £4.5million allocated to the reorganisation of schools in Alnwick, although the majority of this is external funding with £800,000 coming from the county council.

In 2012, after money was allocated from the programme to rebuild the Duchess’s, it was revealed that there will be a mutli million-pound shortfall for aspects such as infrastructure, equipment, moving costs and dealing with the two existing sites. It is understood that some of the money in the budget will tackle this deficit.

There is also nearly £2million allocated in 2016/17 for the Druridge Bay Community Sport and Leisure Facility, which is proposed for the site of the former Druridge Bay Middle School.

There is also £6million allocated for the new Alnwick Lionheart depot and fire station, for which a planning application has now been submitted.

The level of budget cuts recommended for the period from 2015 to 2017 is £44million, or 6.5 per cent of the council’s gross budget, in line with the £130million in reductions agreed over the period from 2014 to 2018.

By 2015/16, core funding for local government will have been reduced by 40 per cent in real terms over the course of this parliament, and the local authority anticipates further reductions for the period of the next parliament, whichever party is in government.

Conservatives on the council have issued an interim response to the Labour-led administration’s future spending plans, giving a broad welcome to some of the plans, but accusing the leadership of being ‘irresponsible’, of increasing the tax burden and of a continuing bias towards the south-east of the county.

Peter Jackson, leader of the Conservative Group, said: “We will be examining these plans in fine detail, there are some changes that we would broadly welcome. For example, it is good to see the county council is undertaking a council house-building programme, but it is a shame that Labour did not support the Conservative proposal to start this back in 2011.”

Peter Jackson also described Labour’s claims as ‘exaggerated’ and said that they would take many years to realise.

He added; “The Labour-run council also forgets to mention that many of the projects with the greatest impact, such as new high schools in Alnwick, Prudhoe and Bedlington, are the result of funding from a Conservative-led Government. Government funding is instrumental in bringing the roll-out of high speed broadband, the recent improvements to our roads and the building of the A1/south-east Northumberland link road.”