THE council’s Safety Valve proposal asked for too much money from the government.

As reported, the government rejected the council’s 15-year proposal to join the controversial scheme.

A letter from the Department for Education released on March 19 said the council’s proposal ‘included an ask of the Department significantly above the level which we could reasonably afford in comparison to other agreements’.

This meant it did not meet the criteria for the programme.

But the letter also recognised the council’s current education deficit ‘poses a substantial risk’ to the authority and that the DfE proposes to continue working with the council to find a solution.

The council’s chief executive, Graham Farrant, said: “We always knew the council’s recent safety valve proposal challenged the DfE’s criteria and we have acted with integrity in making clear that we will not sign up to a deal that would see our services fall below the statutory requirements as set by government.

Bournemouth Echo: BCP Council chief executive Graham Farrant

“The department’s decision to not progress with our proposal at this current time does not change the council’s financial position in relation to the DSG deficit and we remain in discussions with the DfE as part of their Safety Valve programme.”

Councillor Richard Burton, portfolio holder for children’s services, previously said the current SEND funding system from the government ‘does not work for councils or young people’.

Bournemouth Echo:

He added government funding for the service ‘is simply not enough’ to pay for the service the council provides.

Read more on the Safety Valve programme:

BCP Alliance for Children and Schools organised two protests against joining the scheme.

Bournemouth Echo: The protestors gathered outside the BCP Council annex ahead of a meeting of the Children’s

Founder of the group, Rachel Filmer, said she was glad the council would not be joining the scheme, but said they ‘remain alert’ to the possibility of an updated plan which ‘could still mean harsh cuts to statutory services’.

She said: “We also note the recent schools budget cut of 0.5 per cent, approved by BCP and the DfE, which will leave some schools struggling to meet the needs of pupils in the coming year.

“Despite reported service improvements, we are still hearing from BCP families experiencing very long delays in the EHCP process, as well as an increase in refusals to issue plans or even to assess children’s needs. Our most vulnerable children continue to pay the price for the systemic underfunding of SEND services.

“Our message to all is that the law remains unchanged: our children’s legal rights to accessible and effective education must be the priority.”

Bournemouth Echo: Protest organiser Rachel Filmer

Campaigner Adam Sofianos organised a petition, that became the most signed in the council’s history, to reject the scheme.

He said the programme was not the answer for BCP Council and it was right the process was paused.

He said: “The last two months alone have seen two public protests, a record-breaking public petition, and a landmark debate at BCP’s Full Council meeting. With the help of both local and national media, the campaign has been able to expose the risks and realities of Safety Valve.

“This is a great reminder of the value of public action. We thank the thousands of local residents who have supported the campaign so far.”

Bournemouth Echo:

Leader of the Conservative opposition in the council, Phil Broadhead, said: “We welcome the fact that the concerns have been listened to by the Department for Education regarding the Council’s Safety Valve proposals.

“We’ve always been clear that any agreement must include strong provisions around the protection of SEND service levels, full democratic support and a sustainable financial solution. These proposals had none of those.

“We must all now work to find a better solution - which should definitively include investment in new, local specialist schools and a full, open and transparent process about what is being proposed and why. All done in consultation with schools, parents and the public.”