§ Mr. SITCH
asked the First Lord of the Treasury if his attention has been directed to the apprehension prevailing among education authorities in the county of Staffordshire as to the ways and means by which they are to meet their obligations to their teaching staffs employed in elementary schools under their control, consequent upon the Burn-ham award instituting a new scale of salaries applicable to such teachers; whether he is aware that the adoption of this award involves so large an increase in local rates that the authorities concerned cannot see their way to impose this additional burden on the people in time to allow of their honouring their undertaking as from April next ensuing, when the new scale, plus three months' arrears of increment, becomes operative; whether he realises the effect that such increased and immediate demand would have upon the ratepayers and upon their attitude towards education generally in the endeavour to comply with the terms of an award of national and not merely local application; and whether he can see his way to meet the situation by reconsidering the decision to defer until 1st April, 1921, or after payment of the Board of Education's three-fifths' proportion of salaries affected, and arrange for an early and substantial grant on account, thereby enabling the local authorities to meet their liabilities in accordance with the estimates they have compiled.
The subject raised in the question was discussed at length at a deputation which my right hon. Friend, the President of the Board of Education, and I received last Thursday.1736W The deputation was introduced by Lord Burnham, and contained representatives of the County Councils Association, the London County Council, the Association of Municipal Corporations, the Association of Education Committees, and the National Union of Teachers.
I was compelled to point out to the deputation that hitherto the Exchequer has borne a wholly disproportionate share of the increase in the cost of education. The expenditure of local authorities on elementary education will in the financial year 1919–20 show an increase of more than £10,500,000 over the previous year; of this increase, nearly £9,500,000 has been borne by the Exchequer and considerably less than £1,000,000 by the ratepayers. When the present system was introduced last April, the authorities received £4,000,000 in respect of the winding-up of the old system of grants, and were thus afforded the opportunity of building up a reserve.
As regards Staffordshire, I am informed by the Board of Education that in 1919–20 the estimated increase in expenditure on elementary education in Staffordshire County Council area is £96,571. The increase in the Board of Education grants is £122,352. There has therefore been a decrease in the charge OD the rates of £25,781.
Within the Staffordshire area are two non-county boroughs, Newcastle-under-Lyne and Wednesbury, and six urban districts. Taking these together, the estimated increase in expenditure on Elementary Education in 1919–20 was £58,085. The increase in the Board of Education grants was £63,310. There was therefore a decrease charged on the rates of £5,225.
I have undertaken that the payment of grants in respect of higher education shall be expedited so that in 1920–21 the grants paid shall not fall below 50 per cent. of the expenditure of the year. This will to some extent relieve the financial burden in that year. No further concession is in my opinion possible or desirable, and I am convinced that the continued postponement by any local authority of the increase in rates which is clearly inevitable would be bad finance on the part of the authorities and of no assistance to the teachers or to the cause of education.