August 30, 2019 / 5:06 PM / 3 months ago

Johnson pledges 14 billion pound boost for schools

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would boost funding for schools over the next three years by more than 14 billion pounds, adding to speculation that he might be planning an election around the time of Brexit.

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a news conference at the end of the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, August 26, 2019. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez/File Photo

Johnson promised when he moved into Downing Street in July to spend more on education and Friday’s announcement represented a big increase, a think tank said.

Spending on schools for children aged five to 16 will be 2.6 billion pounds higher in the 2020/21 financial year than the 45 billion pounds earmarked for the current financial year, Johnson’s office said.

By 2022/23, the school budget would rise to 52.2 billion pounds, more than 7 billion pounds higher than now.

“We should not accept the idea that there can be ‘winners or losers’ when it comes to our children’s futures,” Johnson said in a statement.

Those schools “historically under-funded” would receive the biggest increase.

Finance minister Sajid Javid has said he will announce an increase in spending on health care and the police as well as education in a one-year spending plan on Wednesday.

The plans have added to speculation that Johnson is planning to call an election soon to boost his working majority of just one in parliament, possibly around the time of Britain’s scheduled departure from the European Union on Oct. 31.

Johnson said on Friday that despite his promises of more spending on public services, he would continue to cut public debt as a share of economic output.

“We will continue to keep debt coming down every year,” Johnson told Sky News television.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies, an independent think tank, said Friday’s announcement would roughly reverse an 8% inflation-adjusted fall in spending per pupil over the last 10 years by the 2022/23 financial year.

“However, a 13-year period of no net growth in school spending per pupil, after inflation, still represents a significant squeeze on school budgets when considered in historical terms,” IFS research fellow Luke Sibieta said.

Writing by William Schomberg; editing by Stephen Addison and John Stonestreet

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