Bristol

Bristol council acted illegally with special needs cuts

Protest against cuts held outside Bristol High Court on 24 July 2018
Image caption Campaigners against the cuts held a protest outside the High Court in Bristol in July ahead of the hearing

A council acted illegally by cutting £5m from the budget for children with special needs, a court has ruled.

Parents in Bristol started the legal challenge over the cuts to services for children with special educational needs and disabilities last month.

The cuts were part of wider plans to make savings across the board.

Bristol City Council said it was "disappointed" at the decision and will now consider what to do next.

'National funding shortage'

Making his judgement at Bristol Civil Justice Centre His Honour Judge Cotter QC, said: "I am not satisfied that had the Defendant acted lawfully there would necessarily have been any reduction at all."

Speaking after the hearing, councillor Craig Cheney, deputy mayor with responsibility for finance, said the authority "truly appreciated" how sensitive the issue is.

"We want to stand united with local families and schools in highlighting the national funding shortage for special educational needs and disabilities and work together with them on a way forward," he said.

But Liberal Democrat councillor Tim Kent said the ruling showed "a real lack of joined up thinking" adding "the council knew of the issue well in advance".

'Previous warnings'

The Local Government Association (LGA) said it would now look to see the implications the ruling could have for other councils nationally.

"The LGA has been clear all along that the government needs to provide significant, ongoing and sustainable funding to help councils manage the rising demand in support from pupils with special educational needs and disabilities.

"We have previously warned that unless councils are given the funding to meet this need, they may not be able to meet their statutory duties and children with high needs or disabilities could miss out on a mainstream education."

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