Bristol City Council Bankruptcy Warning as SEND Costs Spiral

A council has been warned urgent action is needed to avoid bankruptcy over the spiraling cost of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), BBC News reported. In the last financial year, Bristol City Council spent £94.6m on the sector, £16m more than was initially budgeted. Added to previous overspend, it now has a total deficit of £42.5m with three years to reduce the amount. The council is now working to lower costs despite rising demand in its SEND provision. Although councils are not legally allowed to outspend their budgets, parliament granted special permission for councils to run deficits in their schools budget until March 2026. During a schools forum meeting on Tuesday, warnings were given over what could happen if Bristol does not balance its books by the deadline, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service. Council finance manager Angel Lai said, “There's a risk to the local authority if we don't turn the financial position around and we can't afford it. We don't have the reserves to cover the overspend as it is, let alone if the position keeps on deteriorating ... it's a huge financial risk to the local authority.” She said if the council does nothing, when the statutory instrument ends the local council will run out of money. Lai added that although it will “take a bit of time,” modest forecasts provided by the Department for Education suggest that by 2025-26 they could reach an in-year balance. Read more.