EIGHT more schools in Monmouthshire are expected to be in the red when the financial year closes at the end of March. 

Monmouthshire County Council has said it is “disappointed” but believes most of the schools running deficit budgets can be back in the black within the next two years. 

At the beginning of the financial year Chepstow Comprehensive was the only school in a deficit but it is anticipated at the end of March eight more will be in the situation where they will have spent more than they have been funded for. 

Those eight are Abergavenny’s Ysgol Y Fenni , Llantillio Pertholey and Deri View primaries, Thornwell and The Dell primaries in Chepstow, Llandogo, and Overmonnow primaries and the council’s pupil referral unit. 

At the start of the financial year the county’s 30 primary and four secondary schools held combined balances of £6.9 million but due to those schools expected to finish in deficit it expected those funds will have reduced to just £2.3m in a month’s time. 

Will McLean the council’s chief officer for children and young people, told members of the council’s performance scrutiny committee officers are working with schools to help them manage their finances. 

He told councillors: “We don’t want to see any schools in a deficit position and its disappointing to see a number moving into that position. At month nine (of the financial year) there are nine schools expected to be in deficit, up from one a year ago. 

“Two are at very low levels, of less than £10,000. One has had a substantial deficit for a period of time and are working with the cabinet members to provide additional resources, and the rest of the schools have moved to a position where the level can be recovered probably over the next two years. We will work closely with them.” 

He said schools had a “challenging period” where they had additional grants from the Welsh Government which had to be spent on “very specific things within a time frame” and they also had to find two per cent towards pay increases which amounted to £1.2 million across the county’s schools. 

The council had only budgeted for pay rises of up to a three per cent and told schools they would have to fund any increase above that from their own funds. 

Green Party councillor for Llantilio Crossenny, Ian Chandler, said he was concerned more schools were projecting deficits and asked: “What impact will that have on those schools and the children’s education?” 

Mr McLean said the intention is that children won’t be impacted. 

He said: “We hope to work with schools so that education isn’t impacted and over time on any non pay or pay-based mitigation.” 

Before the Covid pandemic, which saw additional investments in schools, there had been 17 schools in deficit in the 2019/20 financial year which was an increase from 12 in 2017/18. 

A council budget monitoring report has said there is concern the position of more schools falling into financial difficulties indicates “inherent structural budget deficits” or “a lack of planning for budgetary risks in the current economic environment”.

All nine schools will have to produce recovery plans. 

Those with “significant” deficits will be monitored on a termly basis by the cabinet members for children and young people and resources. 

Overall the council anticipates having to use £6.06m from its reserves to finish the year with a balanced budget, which is up £1.06m from its previous estimate. 

The council’s main spending pressures are in adult social care and high cost placements for children in care.

Councillor Alistair Neil, chairman of the performance scrutiny committee, said residents and businesses would want to know the council’s “underlying financial position” without a continued draw on reserves or use of receipts from one off capital sales.