A £1.2 million overspend on increasing provision for pre-school children has been called “jaw-dropping.”
While the overall education revenue budget has been underspent by £884,000 to the end of September, Scottish Government plans to provide three and four-year-olds as well as eligible two-year-olds with 30 hours of learning a week has racked up significant additional costs.
Members of Moray Council’s education, children’s and leisure services committee today raised concerns about the spending.
Independent councillor for Forres George Alexander called the figure “jaw-dropping”.
He said: “This £1.2 million overspend, that must be a huge risk, and it’s extremely worrying how we’ve got to this.”
Conservative councillor for Elgin North Frank Brown questioned how the spend had occurred as the local authority had agreed to not spend more on the expansion of the early learning service than pledged by Holyrood.
He said: “The council decision would not support spending in excess of the Scottish Government grant, and we’re doing just that. How has this happened?”
Independent councillor for Speyside Glenlivet Derek Ross also raised concerns.
He said: “Should we not have anticipated this overspend rather than trying to close the stable door after the horse has bolted?”
Concerns over jaw dropping spending
Head of education Vivienne Cross advised an increase in demand for the service and unforeseen work arising during building refurbishments were some of the reasons for the overspend.
She said: “The pandemic has impacted and building costs have been increasing. We have informed the Scottish Government of this at every opportunity.”
A full report is being compiled by education and financial officers on the causes of the overspend. It will come before members at the next meeting of the committee.
As of the end of September around £27.15 million had been spent against a budget of just over £28 million.
The budget includes an underspend of £48,000 on school improvements and £110,000 on clothing grants for pupils.