TWO councillors have written to MPs to ‘implore’ them to help stop the council joining the government’s Safety Valve programme.

Cllrs Emily Harman and Olivia Brown have penned the letter to all five MPs in the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole area to stop what they say would cause ‘drastic, life changing consequences’ for children and young people.

As reported, BCP Council was invited to join the scheme in July 2023.

The programme aims to cut deficits in education funding with sweeping reforms and strict cost-saving measures.

The council has a deficit that is estimated to grow to £63m by March 2024, due to an overspend of £27m on high needs in 2023/24.

But reducing this deficit in joining the Safety Valve scheme could see mainstream schools being forced to take on more high needs pupils, with reduced budgets, a headteacher warned.

The council is ‘being forced to either enter into the Safety Valve agreement or essentially declare bankruptcy’, as a government override on the deficits is set to lapse in 2026.

The two councillors, who are both on the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee, expressed their ‘grave concerns’ at the prospect of joining the programme.

They say in the letter that government funding has been ‘wholly insufficient’ to fund the increased SEND service demand.

Cllr Harman and Cllr Brown said: “Under the scheme, the Government is demanding unacceptable cuts to SEND services and mainstream school budgets.

"As a result, the Government is ensuring that the council will inevitably fail many children and young people by prohibiting them from accessing an education that is fit for purpose and is their fundamental right.”

The pair said the plans would see vulnerable young people lose the ‘safety net’ of education and health care plans.

“The job of our professionals is to ensure that our children are able to realise their potential,” the councillors said.

“How will this be possible when the plan is to move many children and young people with complex needs back into a mainstream classroom setting that we already know does not work for them?”