Councils block security funds for schools

An MP who has taken a leading role in fighting antisemitism is preparing to confront 14 local authorities which have baulked at committing themselves to fund new security projects at Jewish schools in their areas.

The government gave the councils the go-ahead last October to allocate money to such projects from a £21 billion, three-year education budget.

The councils — some of which host the country’s biggest Jewish communities — were contacted by the Community Security Trust, offering its expertise and advice on what security systems would be appropriate for the Jewish schools within their borders.

But the JC has discovered that, although the councils replied, none of them has agreed to set aside money for the projects.

Now John Mann MP, chair of the parliamentary All-Party Antisemitism Group, has stepped in to take up the cudgels. Security in Jewish schools was one of the central recommendations of the 35 points the committee made in its report in 2006.

The JC understands that Mr Mann is now writing to the councils in order to secure a more positive response.

Although he was unavailable for comment this week, CST communications director Mark Gardner said: “The government appears to be committed to the funding proposal but the suggested mechanism is obviously not delivering what was required.”

The councils involved are Barnet, Birmingham, Brent, Bury, Enfield, Hackney, Harrow, Hertfordshire, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Redbridge, Salford and Stockport.

Meanwhile, the real cost of providing security at Jewish schools was revealed last week during a groundbreaking debate on antisemitism which took place in the main chamber of the House of Commons.

Hendon Labour MP Andrew Dismore told MPs that while the government had said that councils could spend capital funds on security, the biggest problem faced by Jewish schools was day-to-day funding.

Mr Dismore said: “The bursar of Menorah Foundation School wrote to me. She said that the real problem was revenue funding for day-to-day security. Last year, Menorah spent more than £20,000 on security guards.

“I phoned Rosh Pinah this morning, and it had spent £15,000 on new alarms and a similar sum on security guards. Mathilda Marks Kennedy School reports similar figures.”

The Independent Jewish Day School spent £18,000 a year, while Hasmonean Junior spent £19,500. At Hasmonean Secondary, the cost soared to £90,000 a year.

The figures, he said, contradicted the Government’s recent claim that a number of named Jewish schools in Barnet and Manchester were wrongly demanding parents pay “voluntary” fees.

“This is a serious problem. It is a voluntary contribution, but Jewish parents are expected to pay towards the cost of ensuring that their children are secure at school. At Menorah, the security element is £300 a year; for Rosh Pinah it is £200, for Mathilda Marks Kennedy £240 and for Hasmonean £105. It is not fair that parents are expected to pay for what every other parent takes for granted — the safety of their children at school,” he said.

    Last updated: 9:15am, May 27 2008