CEREDIGION’S schools are under an “inordinate amount of pressure” to make savings, leading some to ask if an increase in council tax be used to support them.

The learning communities overview and scrutiny committee were told of a recommendation by co-ordinating scrutiny members that if council tax be raised by seven per cent, that the extra two per cent be allocated to education.

This, the meeting heard on Wednesday (January 30) would cover the £644,000 “shortfall” that schools have to find in the 2019-20 budget and provide a “clean sheet” for schools.

More than £2million needs to be found in the schools £46.5millon budget for the next financial year, which includes teacher pay and pension pressures.

A Welsh Government settlement of £175,000 will fund 55 per cent of the pay award but no funding for pension rises has yet been indicated.

The schools service will also receive £482,000 as its share of the one per cent funding allocated by the council to all services, and an additional £445,000 “corporate allocation” to schools.

It was called a “budget for schools” by head of finance Stephen Johnson.

Demographic changes and the impact of Universal Credit on free school meals have also been taken into account.

Cllr Paul Hinge said that there were some schools not managing their budgets and in deficit.

He was told by Meinir Ebbsworth, corporate lead officer for schools, that there was a “small group of schools that have significant budgetary challenges” but work was continuing to tackle that.

“Schools are in a no win situation, there’s going to be a point that they are not going to be able to operate in the way we want them to operate,” added Cllr Hinge.

He was backed by Cllr Mark Strong who said: “I think it’s extremely important to look after the future of our children.”

Savings identified include £42,000 for the re-tender for SEN Special Educational Needs (SEN) transport and a reduction in out-of-county placements has saved £158,000.

Asking for funds back from ERW (Education through Regional Working) was suggested by Cllr Bryan Davies and other ideas included looking at a “cross-county timetable” for subjects with teachers or pupils travelling.

Chief executive Eifion Evans said that ERW grants needed to be “better organised” and how the flow to schools was managed needed to be more transparent to support budget planning.

The committee also agreed £282,000 of cuts to the lifelong learning service and an increase in fees or charges in line with inflation.