Eighteen Bradford schools which had been told they had to hand back a total of nearly £500,000 of unspent funds have been given a reprieve.

Thirteen of the schools had unsuccessfully appealed against Bradford Council’s decision to clawback the cash. But, following pressure from schools, governors and councillors, the Council has declared an amnesty for the process this year and will make the rules for schools clearer for next year.

It means that a total of £463,045 will be retained in the 18 schools’ accounts.

Government rules allow secondary schools to retain no more than five per cent of their budgets and primary, nursery and special schools can keep up to eight per cent. Any extra can be clawed back by the education authority if the school has not assigned the surplus for a specific project.

The schools involved include: Carlton Bolling in Undercliffe (£168,000), Lilycroft Primary in Manningham (£30,000), and Lowerfields Primary in Fenby Avenue, Bradford (£23,000).

Governors at Carlton Bolling, including chairman Councillor David Ward, began a fight to overturn the decision last year. They wrote to the other 17 schools involved.

Coun Ward, the Liberal Democrat group education spokesman, said: “I’m delighted that the final outcome, over what has been long and some would say protracted discussions, is a positive resolution.”

Councillor Ralph Berry, the Labour group’s education spokesman, went further, calling the decision “a victory for common sense”.

Coun Berry lodged a motion at a meeting of the Council last week calling for a review of the system allowing surplus balances to be clawed back and of the appeals process.

A Liberal Democrat amendment was voted through calling for a meeting between Education Bradford, Council education chiefs, Coun Berry and Coun Ward. The aim was to “establish agreed principles for a clawback process that accurately and justly identifies those schools that genuinely do not have a realistic and relevant plan for the use of surplus funds.”

Councillor Michael Kelly, the Council’s executive member for services to children and young people, said the Council would continue to work closely with the Schools Forum.