Bexley Council’s leader has insisted it is pressuring the government for fairer funding for schools, following opposition pressure.

Bexley Council joined a long list of authorities last year filing a budget below the mark as pressure on the high needs block of schools’ funding continues to stretch finances.

On Wednesday, July 17, cabinet member John Fuller said he was not happy about government funding for vulnerable children.

It comes following a motion brought to the council by opposition Labour councillors called for the authority to “oppose central government cuts which threaten the provision of high quality education”.

Speaking at a full council meeting, shadow education spokesman Wendy Perfect said: “The decline in schools funding has had a devastating impact across the country and many schools are now in crisis.

“Some have cut staff, not commissioning support and filing deficits. This has been compounded with cuts to councils funding. This impact disproportionately hits the most vulnerable students.”

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Labour called for the council to join a campaign led by the School Cuts alliance, and to lobby the Secretary of State for education for more cash.

It comes following a recent report to Bexley’s Schools Forum forecast more pressure on the budget for special educational needs.

Following a shortfall of £2.8m – which is set to increase – officers said: “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.”

“The high needs block has been underfunded in Bexley with mainstream schools having to make up the shortfall,” cllr Perfect added.

Labour’s pressure was played down by Conservative councillors who said the picture in Bexley is not as stretched as elsewhere in the country.

Councillors resolved to pass a Conservative amendment instead, noting that Bexley has seen an increase in teachers and assistants, a stable number of pupils and an investment in two new special schools.

Sidcup cllr Richard Diment said: “The policy of this council should reflect the position in Bexley and the experience of parents and children in the borough. The reality is we are handling in difficult circumstances very well.”

Councillors agreed that they would continue to lobby the government for the funding “the borough needs to support children with special educational needs and disabilities and all of our pupils in all of our schools”.

Council leader Teresa O’Neill added: “Education funding appears in most cabinet reports because we deal with it on a regular basis. It is there, and it is clear we have been lobbying the government.

“We were a late entrance into a deficit around the high needs block, but cllr Fuller has been speaking to the school’s forum and I have met Damien Hinds to raise the profile for it.”