Decision to reduce special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) spending by £5m


A rolled-up hearing took place on Tuesday, July 24th at Bristol Civil Justice Centre to challenge Bristol City Council’s decision to reduce special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) spending by £5m in the local area.

Represented by Simpson Millar’s Public Law and Education Team two families affected brought the legal action amidst ‘significant concerns’ that the council’s decision was unlawful. The Judgment has been handed down and the Court has concluded that the decision making process, completed by Bristol City Council was legally flawed.

Simpson Millar Partner and education law specialist, Samantha Hale commented:
“We had significant concerns that the council did not follow the appropriate procedures and legislation in making these reductions, and did not properly consult those likely to be impacted. The decision shows that the Court shared our concerns, finding in favour of the two families who brought this claim”.

“The Court concluded that the process completed by Bristol City Council before reaching its decision was flawed. Furthermore, the Court confirmed they were unable to determine what the outcome would have been in the absence of the legal errors. The Judge held that “full funding might have been allocated’”.

“Bristol City Council will now have to reconsider its funding allocation to the High Needs Block budget and to do so in a lawful way, as the Court has confirmed that the High Needs Budget will be quashed. This is a very important recognition that while Local Authorities may have to cut budgets, they may only do it, if it is done lawfully”.

“Our clients hope that Bristol City Council will recognise the serious concerns about SEN services and outcomes reflected in the Judgment when taking the new funding decision”.


Note to editors:

  • (i) There is an anonymity order in respect of the Claimants, to protect the identities of the children involved. The Claimants are not available for interview.
  • (ii) Budget cuts included (by way of example) the following categories:
    • a. SEN top-ups for “maintained schools (Bristol)” will reduce by £767,000
    • b. SEN top-ups for “special schools (Bristol)” will reduce by £1,166,000
    • c. Funding for Bristol’s pupil referral unit will reduce by £150,000

For further information, interviews or images please contact:
Caroline Woffenden
07740 492 792

Simpson Millar LLP
Denise Kern, PR & Communications Manager
0161 876 1310

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