A Government agency has spent nearly £200,000 on contracting a company to offer financial expertise around the winding up of a collapsed academy chain.
A total of £183,121, excluding VAT, was paid to Deloitte LLP between September 1, 2017 and May 31 this year for services in respect of the closure of Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT), including on a financial review of the 21 schools that were formerly part of it.
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Answering a written question about the spend by Wakefield MP Mary Creagh, Nadhim Zahawi, a Minister in the Department for Education (DfE), said the cash was paid not by WCAT itself but by the Education and Skills Funding Agency, which is accountable for billions of pounds of public funding for education and training.
Though the DfE declined to comment further when asked exactly what services Deloitte had been paid to provide, Mr Zahawi revealed more in an answer to a further question by Ms Creagh.
His statement said: “The department has worked closely with the Wakefield City Academies Trust board to ensure all 21 schools transferred smoothly to new trusts, to minimise disruption for pupils.
“This included securing additional specialist capacity from Deloitte LLP to undertake a financial review of all the schools, provide assurance on the trust’s financial position and advise on options to support the closure of the trust.”
Ms Creagh said she was “furious” that taxpayers’ cash had “gone to consultants”. “We are seeing taxpayers’ money being spent on making sure that the trust is being wound up in a responsible way,” she said.
“It seems an extraordinary amount of money to see the accounts are wound down properly and in an orderly fashion.”
The board of WCAT, which ran primary and secondary schools across Yorkshire, said the trust did not have the capacity to bring about rapid improvements in its academies in a shock announcement just days into a new term in September 2017.
It has since relinquished responsibility for all of them and is expected to be formally wound up in a matter of weeks.
Trustees anticipate it will remain solvent, with any surplus used “for the benefit of the children” – and a report in its latest accounts, published last month, said the DfE would underwrite any closing deficit.
The accounts for WCAT, which has previously been accused of “asset-stripping” its schools, were given a clean audit with no regulatory issues.
WCAT said that the trust itself had not paid any companies in respect of its closure.