A PETITION to call on councillors to reject the government’s Safety Valve programme has gone beyond 2,100 signatures.

Joining the scheme would see ‘horrendous’ consequences for schools, special educational needs services and children, SEND campaigner Adam Sofianos has said.

As reported, the council is faced with an estimated education deficit of £63m come March, due to a £27m overspend on high needs provision.

A government override was put in place to ignore this deficit.

But the authority would be forced to declare insolvency in December with this set to lapse at the end of the 2025/26 financial year, as it would be unable to produce a balanced budget.

To manage deficits, the council was invited to join the government’s Safety Valve programme which looks to cut deficits with sweeping reforms and strict cost-saving measures.

A plan to balance the books in five years was rejected by the council and head teachers, but an alternative has been tabled to do it in 15 years.

At a school’s forum meeting on Monday, January 15, heads rejected proposals to cut 0.5 per cent from their budgets to fund SEND services.

Adam said: “The government has underfunded SEND services by billions.

“The obvious solution is to extend the override, which gives councils more breathing space, and look for a way to fund this properly.”

He added that the amount of money the council will get from the scheme ‘will not be enough to hold off insolvency’.

“The impacts of Safety Valve on SEND services and on children with needs in schools will be horrendous,” Adam said.

“That is why so many families, so many SEND providers and so many school leaders are now starting to draw attention to this and asking both the council and the government to try something else.

“It will fall to councillors to take control of decision-making.

“The petition has been set up to support the councillors in doing that, for the public to have its voice.”

Adam has written to the council for the petition to be heard at the next full council meeting in February.

For more information visit the ePetition section of the BCP Council website.