North Yorkshire County Council faces 'very difficult' budget decisions to support growing number of children with special educational needs

The Yorkshire council serving England's largest county faces having to make 'some very difficult decisions' to balance its books because of the rising levels of support required for children with special education needs.

Local authorities are facing increasing pressure due to the rising number of children needing educational support

North Yorkshire County Council leader Carl Les told The Yorkshire Post that its children and young people’s budget faces an overspend of £10.8m by the end of the financial year if urgent action is not taken.

He said the authority had seen an unexpectedly big rise in the number of children coming forward with special educational needs statements, which set out a child’s learning difficulties and the help that will be given.

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Coun Les said: “We need a strategy to address that otherwise the budget will go out of control and there is no way we are going to let the budget go out of control.”

North Yorkshire County Council leader Carl Les

Earlier this year, a coalition of unions and 39 local authorities across the country warned that schools are being starved of the funding they need to support vulnerable young people with special educational needs.

The issue has emerged as a major pressure on county authorities, alongside the increasing proportion of their budgets being given over to adult social care.

Local authorities have in recent years been expected to do more to support children with special educational needs, with parents applying more pressure on schools to take action.

The pressure facing North Yorkshire’s authority comes as beleaguered Northamptonshire County Council, which needs to make £70m in savings to balance its books and has government-appointed commissioners to oversee its finances, confirmed further cuts today at a meeting of its executive.

The Tory-run authority was handed a further blow when the High Court ruled that its decision to close 21 local libraries was made unlawfully.

Coun Les said senior officials in North Yorkshire were asked to come up with a savings plan after the scale of its projected over-spend emerged this morning.

He said: “It will probably mean we will take some very difficult decisions. That is the difference between us and Northamptonshire.

“We started early and got ahead of the curve but we are also willing to take some difficult decisions to protect the integrity of the county council and the taxpayers that we serve.”

North Yorkshire County Council, which serves a population of more than 600,000, has lost £170m from its budget since the start of austerity in 2010.

In June, a coalition of unions and 39 local authorities across the country, including four in Yorkshire, wrote to Education Secretary Damian Hinds to raise “deep concerns” over provision for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Amid warnings about the ability of local authorities to meet their statutory obligations, they called for urgent support and additional funding.