More than 2,000 Barnet residents have signed a petition against plans for the council to charge schools for services.

Cuts to the education services grant – which pays for services such as behaviour support, school improvement and assessment management – mean Barnet Council could start charging schools that it oversees to make up for the resulting funding shortfall.

It comes against a backdrop of ongoing austerity measures, with the council’s children education and safeguarding committee (CESC) expected to make savings of nearly £10 million by 2024.

The petition, which was presented to the the committee last week (Thursday, November 29), claimed schools were being asked to bail out the council to make up for its own budget shortfall.

School governor Graham Kidd told the committee there was “overwhelming opposition from headteachers, teachers, governors and parents”.

He said: “As a borough, we now have an increasing number of schools with deficit budgets and more are heading in that direction.

“The proposal in front of you tonight will be the last straw for the dedicated staff who have a vocation to educate and inspire.

“They will now see all of their hard work begin to unravel because there will not be sufficient funding to continue their good work without having to resort to redundancies, loss of support staff, or indeed loss of subjects on offer.”

Mr Kidd called on the council to put pressure on the Government to address the issue, adding that the savings would be “damaging to our children’s future”.

The petition has attracted more than 4,000 signatures, more than 2,000 of which are from people living in Barnet.

Chris Munday, the council’s strategic director of children and young people, said the education services grant was removed following a government white paper proposing that all schools should become academies.

Academies are independent of local authority control and can receive additional financial support from personal or corporate sponsors.

Mr Munday said: “We have protected schools for two years in relation to those savings and the council has managed those, but the situation is now at a point where we can’t continue to do that.”

He added that the council was working on a report on school finances due to be published in January that would examine the funding options in more detail.

Cllr Pauline Coakley Webb, Labour member for Coppetts, blamed the situation on the Government’s belief that every school would convert to academy status.

In fact, a significant number of schools – particularly primary schools – remain under local authority control.

Councillors were divided as to whether to commission a separate report based on the petition or to note the concerns and include them in the report due in January.

The committee eventually decided to include concerns highlighted by the petition in January’s report.