A top Bexley councillor has defended filing an “unprecedented” schools budget that was £3.2m in deficit.

Labour councillors pressed the cabinet member for education, John Fuller, on how he was going to reduce his portfolio’s deficit.

The council filed its budgets at a meeting last month, with education not escaping trends across the country of financial pressures.

In Bexley, a schools budget that was £3.2m in deficit was passed – a move the opposition called “unprecedented” as they challenged for answers at a full council meeting on April 17.

Cllr Fuller told the chamber: “We are about £3.5m better off than three of our local councils in how we are doing things.

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“Our plan is to work with families and schools to give a better value education, so we don’t cut corners. We know some councils have been taken to court by parents arguing over cuts.

“To clarify, school funding is based on a national funding formula and a local budgetary determined through school’s forum.

“Steps are being taken to compete with this £3.2m and the good news is we have two new free schools coming along and that will help with children with complex needs as that’s where a lot of our spend goes.

“Our vision is that Bexley children should be educated locally wherever possible, this ambition is against the backdrop where local authorities face financial demand.

“We try our best to educate locally and this helps reduce rising cost through transport and out of borough placements. This is driven by an ambition that children should be educated in the communities they live.

“We are working to keep the deficit low but when you want to keep children educated correctly, I am sorry that is where we sit at this time.”

A change in how children with special educational  needs are taken to school has saved the council £200k since it was brought in last year.

The council has had funding from the government for two new free schools, including Cleeve Meadow School which will have room for 120 students with learning difficulties.

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Labour education spokeswoman Wendy Perfect said on Wednesday it was disgraceful that the government was not funding education fully for kids with high needs.

Earlier this month Labour councillors joined national calls for a spending review for schools.

The group has backed a country-wide campaign by the National Education Union calling for education secretary Damien Hinds to find more money for schools.