THE budget for pupils with special education needs in Halton is to face further cuts in a bid to close a £2.1m deficit.

A schools forum report reveals that although a range of budget reductions was agreed in March, a shortfall of more £220,652 remains.

To close this gap, further savings have been proposed by making over £60,000 worth of cuts to the behaviour support team and £50,000 worth of cuts to home tutors.

Cuts are also being made to the special educational needs (SEND) commissioner post (£21,000),  inclusion staffing and supply and services reductions (£52,971) and to council reserves (£32,525).

The report says the situation has been made worse after the Education and Skills Funding Agency wrote to Halton Council advising that in error they had over allocated the high needs block by £104,000 and would be looking to recoup this funding in July 2018.

The council is proposing that a remaining balance of £17,229 to support discretionary top up funding for enhanced provision.

The comes after the council were forced into a u-turn over plans to scrap enhanced provision funding for SEND pupils following public backlash.

Cllr Tom McInerney, board member for children, young people and families, has said that cuts from central government have failed to keep up with rising demand for SEND support, forcing the council to make extremely difficult decisions.

The schools forum report adds that increased demand for support for pupils with special educational needs, the level of complexity of some pupils and reduced flexibility to transfer money between the different funding blocks,all contributed to Halton’s “significant deficit” of more than £2.1 million in its high needs budget in 2018/2019.