Council showdown with colleges looms over big particular wants training deficit
Leicestershire County County is preparing to battle schools to meet an expected deficit of tens of millions of pounds in its special needs education budget.
Senior officials have warned of the increasing demand and cost of providing special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
This is despite cost-cutting plans that have already saved £ 24 million over the past few years.
The projected deficit of £ 43million was described this week as the most significant short-term financial risk for the county council.
On the subject of matching items
On the subject of matching items
SEND education is funded from a community pool of money called the “high needs block” while general education in the county is paid for from a separate “school block”.
The county council will now ask the Leicestershire Schools Forum, a group of senior school principals and governors of regular county schools, if there will be 0.5 percent of the school blocks – about £ 2 million – in the Special Needs Fund in the next fiscal year.
To do this, the Council must obtain the approval of the forum – and the panel rejected a similar proposal last year.
Should the forum refuse again, the council will likely appeal to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to approve the move anyway.
Conservative Vice-Chairwoman Debra Taylor is Cabinet Member for Children and Families.
She said other councils were also faced with the difficult decision of having to take money from mainstream schools to pay for special needs education.
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She said, “I understand why school principals will not be satisfied with this suggestion, which also goes against my own thoughts.”
She said she expected a “push back” against the district council’s proposal.
She added: “We need to show the government that we have done everything in our power to control overspending.
“We asked last year but the school forum didn’t approve the broadcast and we told them at that point that if overspending continues, we have no choice but to request a broadcast this year.
“We do this with a heavy heart.”
Coun Taylor promised to get the deficit under control and continue to solicit more money from ministers and alert them to the district council’s situation.
(Image: Getty Images / iStockphoto)
Secretary of State for Finance, Coun Lee Breckon, said: “The resource impact of the £ 43 million deficit is the single most significant short-term risk this county council faces, despite the £ 24 million revenue savings achieved.
He said the deficit could stay on the books for a while but would ultimately need to be funded, which has a direct impact on the council’s financial resilience and the resources available for any services it offers.
Council child and youth leader Jane Moore said at a cabinet meeting this week: “’Demand for seats is the main cost driver and therefore the biggest cost driver.
“The SEND system in its current form is not sustainable and represents a considerable risk for the municipality.”
She said it was hoped but not expected that a long awaited national review of the SEND system would bring some necessary changes.