BCP COUNCIL’S rejected Safety Valve plan forecast a £300million deficit at the end of the 15-year scheme.

As reported, the council had its submission refused by the Department for Education as it had asked for too much money from the government.

The authority was subject to a legal letter from campaign group BCP Alliance for Children and Schools calling on it to release the plan as it was previously kept confidential.

Now, the council has released it, showing its projections, reductions and quotas for education, health and care plans (EHCPs), as well as costs and budget management.

It would have balanced the in-year budget, forecasting an in-year surplus of £0.2million in 2038-39.

Every year preceding this would have built the total deficit but reduced the in-year position.

The plan said: “The plan will take 14 years to come into balance - there will be a £239 million accumulated additional shortfall over this period, starting at £28 million in 2024-25, generally reducing annually.

“Accumulated deficit at March 2024 is forecast to be £63 million, which is not dealt with in this plan.

“Without any support from government the deficit will be £302 million in 2038-29. The plan models an in-year surplus of £0.2 million in 2038-39.

“Although this still represents a large deficit, it is a significant improvement on the last management plan submitted in September 2023, based on the DBV (Delivering Best Value) work.

“That plan showed a cumulative deficit of £218 million at the end of 2026-27. The new plan is to reduce this to £140 million (a 36% reduction in 3 years).”

The council did say in the plan that options to balance the in-year budget within five years were modelled but were discounted as ‘they would be unachievable within the current high needs statutory provisions’.

Cathi Hadley, BCP Council director of children’s services, said: “We recently published a letter, received from the Department for Education (DfE), confirming that they could not enter into a Safety Valve agreement with Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council at this time. 

“This letter was in response to a specific proposal we put forward which would balance our designated schools grant deficit within 15 years.  

“We also made it clear that we could only sign up to an option that would not jeopardise the education provision for any of our children.    

“The rejection of this proposal does not mean BCP Council has been removed from the Safety Valve programme. Our conversations with the DfE as part of the programme are continuing. 

"We remain committed to working with the DfE, teachers, parents, children and young people to deliver a solution that protects education provision for all going forward. 

“As part of this commitment, we are sharing the 15-year proposal with our residents.”

The full plan can be found here: https://www.bcpcouncil.gov.uk/news-hub/news-articles/BCP-Councils-participation-in-the-governments-safety-valve-programme