SOLIHULL taxpayers could be paying for six new council managers – amid a budget crisis in its special needs services.
They would include a new assistant director receiving £93,000 a year, as the local authority deals with a multi-million-pound deficit.
A £3million overspend in the special educational needs budget last year could grow to £5.6 million for 2019, council projections for its government-provided Dedicated Schools Grant show.
Provision for school places for children with special educational needs is paid for by the High Needs Block of the grant.
Education officers have blamed “an increase in numbers and costs of school placements, particularly in the independent sector” for the overspend on the £24 million allocation.
Solihull Council is now looking for six new managers to put the SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) budget in the black.
It is seeking to enact a recovery plan for the budget under guidance from the government’s Department for Education.
In an agenda report to Solihull Council’s cabinet meeting on October 10, the council’s director of children’s services Louise Rees recommended the local authority recruits six managers to rebalance the department’s budget by 2022.
Ms Rees also acknowledged a backlog of up to 500 annual reviews for educational health care plans, which families require to secure a special needs school place.
The council’s renumeration committee is also considering whether to increase the pay band of the special needs department’s assistant director – a new post.
In agenda notes to the committee, which meets today (October 24), councillors are advised the special needs budget ‘recovery plan’ is reliant on an assistant director ‘”with a focus on the redesign and improvement of SEND related services.
“The [assistant director] will lead and drive through the necessary changes to deliver the Recovery Plan.”
An departmental assistant director could currently expect £86,914, but citing a national shortage of specialist SEND leaders, head of human resources Adrian Cattell has asked the council to pay £93,094 to the successful candidate.
The Department for Education is pressing Solihull Council to submit its recovery plan for the SEND budget next year.
Mr Cattell suggested that given the urgency of the need to recruit the assistant manager, the extra £6000 per year for the salary could be met by the council’s reserves.