Leeds City Council cuts schools community fund

Council chiefs in Leeds are pressing ahead with a controversial policy to scrap a fund used to subsidise the use of schools by community organisations, uniformed groups and sports clubs.

The council spends over 700,000 a year to help groups meet the cost of hiring school facilities during evenings and weekends.

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But last September the council's executive board decided to withdraw the funding after receiving a report explaining that schools now received a government grant to support out-of-hours use of their premises.

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The board's decision prompted fears among some groups and clubs of a sharp increase in hire charges which could threaten their future.

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A deputation of Guides, Scouts and Brownies leaders who use Barwick-in-Elmet Primary School last year urged that the community use of schools funding be reinstated.

The deputation's concerns were reported to the board's latest meeting which, while recognising the outstanding work done by uniformed groups, endorsed the decision to end the funding.

Coun Jane Dowson (Lab, Chapel Allerton) said Leeds' schools currently received a total of 27m from the Government to help meet the cost of providing community access to their premises. The decision taken by the board last September was about tackling the issue of double funding.

A report to the board said: "School governing bodies now have both the funding and the responsibility for promoting community access to school premises."

Coun Andrew Carter, Tory group leader, said the decision to scrap funding was taken without sufficient consultation.