Dundee city council chiefs have been unable to rule out using money for deprived pupils in the city to fill a Covid-19 black hole.
The council’s financial recovery plan, published in August, suggested millions of pounds of the funding could be “reprioritised” as the authority struggled with a £19.5m gap in its finances
At a meeting of the children and families services committee on Monday evening it emerged that the authority had not relocated any of the funding to date, but leaders declined to rule out the measure in the future.
Director of children and families service Paul Clancy said: “At the last policy and resources meeting, when the Covid finance plan was actually brought up, we set out what the Covid costs had been for children and families, and we said that shortfall was going to be made up by using carry forwards from early years, and that is currently our intention.
“There are no plans at present to use PEF (pupil equity funding) to make good that shortfall.”
He said he could not rule out the measure in the future if the pandemic worsened.
“It’s October, there’s six months on the financial year to go and no-one knows where Covid might go or what direction it might take.”
The council was looking to take advantage of looser rules around funding previously ring-fenced by the Scottish Government to help pupils from more deprived backgrounds.
It is my hope that we will not have to use the Pupil Equity Funding.”
Officers were considering “re-prioritising” £4m from children’s services budgets, including money previously allocated for the Pupil Equity Fund, Scottish Attainment Challenge and for the expansion in early years and childcare.
Corporate services director Greg Colgan said he would bring forward an update on the financial recovery plan in November.
He said: “I will ensure that it is clear to all elected members regarding the use of flexibilities.
“It is my hope that we will not have to use the Pupil Equity Funding, but we will make sure that report in November is very clear about the approach I will be recommending to council.”
Councillor Michael Marra, Labour, who asked about the spending flexibility in response to Covid, said:
“That’s really welcome. At times, and understandably due to the pandemic, it’s been challenging to follow how that’s going to go.”