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Special educational needs transport costs rise by almost a third

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School transport costs for pupils with special educational needs have increased by almost a third over the past four years creating new “budget risks” for local authorities, the County Councils Network has warned.

Survey data from the CCN’s 36 member authorities shows they collectively spent £323.3m on free school transport in 2017-18, compared with £249.3m in 2013-14 - a rise of 30%.

This increase was partly due to an increase in the number of pupils receiving free transport services, with 7,500 more pupils seeking support in 2017-18 than in 2013-14.

Carl Les (Con), CCN spokesman for children’s services and education, said: “These new unfunded burdens have come at a time when local authority budgets are being stretched due to the unprecedented financial pressures we all face.

“As a result, many of us are exceeding our budgets every year on school transport… With demand and costs only projected to rise, these present a major budget risk for many of us which will become unsustainable in the long run without additional funding.”

The CCN warned yesterday on the first day of its annual conference in Guildford that costs for the care of people with disabilities is expected to rise by 38.5% in the coming decade; increasing from £4.8bn in 2015-16 to £6.7bn in 2025-26. CCN chair Paul Carter (Con) called on the government to “ensure the long-term survival of councils” through long-term funding for adult social care in next year’s spending review.

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