THURROCK Council leader, cllr John Kent has said he has sympathy for the Thurrock MP, Jackie Doyle-Price’s confusion over the funding controversy over Ockendon Academy.
Cllr Kent said: “I can understand our MP’s confusion in the way she has responded to the Ockendon school situation.
“Lord Hill’s two-page letter explaining the situation is quite complex and I attach it for you to check the veracity of what I am saying.
“It is worth noting that the Ockendon School had the seventh highest balances in the country and that in the previous year (09-10) the council clawed back a total of £178,396 from four other schools with excessive balances. This is not unusual and it is not something only aimed at a specific school for nefarious reasons.
“We are very pleased that the Department for Education has endorsed the council’s action in holding schools to account to ensure public money is spent on the education of children and young people and not set aside.
“The Ockendon claw-back decided by the Secretary of State was over half a million (£533,465.08). This is being returned to Thurrock’s Dedicated Schools Grant and the Schools’ Forum will decide how to use it for the education of children and young people in Thurrock.
“There are some importance phrases in Lord Hill’s letter:
“… we are satisfied that Thurrock Council were entitled to clawback some of the excess surplus balances …”; “… we do not feel that the local authority can be held as acting in an unreasonable manner…”; and “… we have concluded that the council were not acting unreasonably…”.
Lord Hill explains that they reached their conclusion using “the legal test of unreasonableness” and obviously found thatThurrock’s actions were mainly reasonable.
It was no surprise that the Secretary of State adjusted the extent of the claw-back. We would have been naive to expect everything we asked for as it would have been politically difficult for a flagship early converter academy to be publicly embarrassed.
For us, though, it was an important matter of principle.”
Jackie Doyle-Price is not available for comment.