A COUNCILLOR motion and a petition against the government’s Safety Valve programme will be heard at a full council meeting next week.

As reported, the petition to reject the controversial scheme has become the most signed in BCP Council history, with more than 2,250 signatures.

Now, as detailed in the council constitution, the petition will be heard at the meeting on Tuesday, February 20.

It follows the council being invited to join the Safety Valve programme, which aims to cut education deficits, which are currently estimated at £63m.

Read more on the Safety Valve programme:

The council has statutory requirements which it must meet, but that it has not been given a big enough budget to cover this.

It does this through sweeping reforms and cost cutting measures. The deficits are currently subject to a statutory government override, which expires on March 31, 2026.

However, joining the scheme would not tackle the historical deficits, and would just balance ‘in year’ costs, with the council needing to ‘persuade’ the government to cover the remaining balance.

This, it is estimated, would be around £200m in 15 years’ time, which is the end of a plan that the authority has submitted to the Department for Education. Joining the scheme has been met with opposition from headteachers, councillors and residents.

At the council meeting, petitioner Adam Sofianos will get three minutes to outline the petition and what it calls for, before councillors debate the issue.

It calls for councillors to hold a full council debate to vote on any plans under the Safety Valve scheme, while calling for them to reject it.

Bournemouth Echo: Patrick Canavan

Related to the petition is a motion tabled by councillor Patrick Canavan, which will also be heard.

The motion said joining the programme ‘could result in an agenda of severe reductions in SEND services’ and could ‘put schools at risk’.

The impact on young people and their families would be ‘unacceptable’, the motion says.

It calls for councillors to vote that the council debates and considers any contract or arrangement under the scheme before it is agreed.

Alongside this, it asks that the leader or chief executive of the council writes to ministers for an urgent extension to the statutory override and to express an urgent need for additional funding or a deficit write off for all councils.

Finally, it asks the leader or chief executive to write to the Local Government Association ‘expressing the urgent need’ for councils to demand the government supports authorities through the ‘crisis’.

Ahead of the meeting, another protest will be held outside the civic centre by BCP Alliance for Children and Schools, at 6pm.