Millions to be invested in helping children with special educational needs in Devon

Devon County Council's cabinet met at County Hall. Picture: Daniel Clark

Devon County Council's cabinet met at County Hall. Picture: Daniel Clark - Credit: Daniel Clark

Children with special educational needs and mental health issues are set to benefit from millions of more pounds in funding.

Devon County Council was set to agree its budget, proposing a council tax increase £53.10 a year for a Band D property, for 2019/20 at a meeting on Thursday (yesterday), as the Herald went to press.

The budget calls for an extra £11.5million to be spent on hard-pressed children’s services. That’s a rise of more than 9.4 per cent.

Spending on adult care and health will go up by £4.5million and the budgets for community, health and environment and highways and infrastructure will both rise by 0.7per cent.

The money will come from a rise to council tax and cost cutting at Devon County Hall. This included chopping money from the budgets to hire consultants and stand-in managers - last year it spent nearly £7.5million on agency and temporary staff and a further £500,000 on hiring 12 consultants. There will also be cuts to car allowances and mileage payments which cost £480,000 a year and room hire costs.

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Overall, the county’s spending on services will rise from £479.4million to almost £494million, if the budget is approved.

It will be partly paid for by an increase of 3.99 per cent in council tax.

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The rise encompasses a 2.99 per cent increase for general services and an extra one per cent dedicated solely to adult social care.

This included setting aside a £2.4million pot of cash to invest in front-line services. This includes:

? £500,000 in much-needed rural bus services.

? £1million for education and services for children with special educational needs.

? £500,000 to tackle highways drainage problems.

? £60,000 for a ‘hardship fund’ helping young people in post-16 education get to college.

? £400,000 for mental health services for children and young people.

Councillors have also called on the authority to lobby Government to end the loophole which allows owners of second homes and holiday homes to switch from paying council tax to business rates, and to give local councils the power to charge 200 per cent Council Tax on second and holiday homes.

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