Bexley Council is to pressure the government for more cash as its budget for special needs kids could be £7m in deficit by next year.

The council faces tough choices this year as it looks to plug an £18m budget gap by the Spring, with high needs funding being a tough area to balance.

With more demand for extra support at school, population increases and a lack of government funding budgets are tight nationally.

In the past financial year, eight out of 10 councils in England spent more than their allocated budgets for high needs, according to reports.

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Last year, Bexley Council set its first deficit budget for high needs support, joining other authorities in going below the red.

The forecast looks likely to worsen, with officers revealing in their latest update: “A deficit budget of £3.2m has been set for 2019/20 and further cost pressures estimated at around £1.2m are emerging in monitoring for 2019/20 which means that the accumulated deficit is likely to worsen to more than £7m by March 2020.”

At a meeting on July 9, the council’s director of finance Paul Thorogood added: “The council went into deficit for the first time by £2.9m. This is no different to any other educational authority in the country and I believe every authority in London are now in deficit.

“We are forecasting an in year pressure of £4.4m. Lobbying in this area both locally and nationally continues to support that funding pressure going forward.”

Cabinet member for resources, councillor David Leaf, continued: “We are lobbying the government to give us the funding we need to support our children and to address this deficit. Leaning on our books carries risks and threatens our finances.”

In papers prepared for a recent schools forum meeting, officers appeared to agree, stating: “Deficits on the scale envisaged for high needs therefore represent a significant risk to the financial stability of Bexley and many other councils in similar or worse situations.”

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Recent research by the Local Government Association (LGA) revealed that one in three councils fear funding for vital services will run dry by 2023.

Last month, families started a High Court challenge to the government’s funding of support for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

They argued the government is leaving councils in England unable to fulfil their legal duties to give these children the support they need.