Schools win extra £1.2bn in new funds

MICHAEL Gove, the education secretary, was the biggest winner from yesterday’s Autumn Statement, after he received an extra £1.2bn for his schools budget.

The chancellor announced £600m to fund an extra 100 “free schools”, which are run independently by private groups or parents and do not have to answer to the local authority.

Part of the money will be used to fund a raft of new maths free schools for 16 to 18-year-olds, in a bid to address a chronic shortage of qualified mathematicians in the UK.

“These maths free schools [will] produce more of the engineering and science graduates so important for our longer term economic success,” Osborne said.

There will also be a further £600m for local authorities who need to boost the number of school places on offer. The spending will be funded by savings at Andrew Mitchell’s international aid department.

Iain Duncan Smith, the welfare secretary, was also a major winner, after the chancellor announced that next year’s increase in benefits would be unusually generous.

It is standard practice to increase benefits in line with September’s consumer prices inflation reading, which was particularly high at 5.2 per cent this year.

The Treasury is understood to have considered saving cash by uprating benefits at a lower rate, but abandoned the plan following a confrontation with Duncan Smith

The fact that two reforming right-wingers were the biggest beneficiaries is significant. The leadership is mindful that its backbenchers are growing increasingly rebellious and wants to highlight the Tory reforms the coalition is pursuing.