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02.10.18

High Court battle underway to reverse Surrey council’s £21m cuts to disabled children’s services

The High Court case to reverse Surrey County Council’s planned £21m cuts to services for disabled children has begun today.

Four groups of parents are challenging Surrey CC’s plans to slash its budget for their special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in a currently on-going case at the Royal Courts of Justice.

Surrey council were recently warned by accountancy experts CIPFA that they will face a funding gap of almost £100m between now and 2021 unless it takes urgent action.

The authority released a short statement ahead of the judicial review, but said it wouldn’t be offering further comment until after the judgement.

It said: “We are defending this claim, but as ever our main focus is making sure children get the support that they need.”

According to CIPFA’s analysis, Surrey’s gross expenditure is expected to rise by 6.5% of the next four years compared to a 2.4% pay rise over the same period.

The authority appointed Leigh Whitehouse, the former London Borough senior financial officer, as their new interim director of finance in August.

Surrey Live, covering the court case, reported comments from the four mothers leading the campaign against the council.

Alicia McColl, leader of the campaign, said: “Bristol had a similar High Court case a couple of months ago and they won their’s so I’m feeling quite confident.

“We should have good case on the days on October 2 and 3.”

Jenni Richards QC opened the case for the families saying that they recognise that local authorities have to make difficult decisions but Surrey council still has a duty to consult and there is “no excuse” for non-compliance.

In the hearing, the council cabinet and full council papers were considered to see how the decision to make cuts to the SEND budget were initially improved.

The challenge seems to rest on the decisions made by Surrey CC cabinet members on 26 March 2018.

Jonathon Moffat QC for Surrey Council said the “simple fact is that at the time the council made the decision it didn’t know what the impacts were,” and that the council cannot be said to have unlawfully failed to consider something that wasn’t ascertainable at the time of the decision.

 

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