Views on the Judicial Review of Surrey CC 2018/19 budget decisions on SEND
When the 2018/9 budget and plan was passed by SCC in February, with a high headline of efficiency savings of ca £25m on Schools and SEND there was understandable anxiety, frustration and anger felt by many parents who felt that services to their children and others were going to be quickly affected.
Four families, supported by hundreds of others through crowd-funding, sought a Judicial Review of the budget decision and were granted leave to do so, with a High Court hearing due in early October.
It is important to understand the basis of and possible impacts of the Judicial Review.
The review is NOT about the outcome of the Council decision-making process – the level of efficiencies included - about ££s. It is about whether the process undertaken by the Council in reaching the budget decision was compliant with legislation and statutory duties.
If the court upholds the challenge, finding that the Council process was not compliant in some regard, for example, consultation with those likely to be affected, the Council can be directed to repeat the decision-making process in a compliant manner. This may still result in the same outcome in terms of ££, as the Council could decide to proceed with their plans, even after a consultation which showed lack of support from affected residents.
Regardless of the outcome of the Judicial Review, FVS will continue to champion the principle on which the challenge is being brought, that there is a duty to consult and respond to those most affected by the changes proposed, and that this is key to an effective partnership approach to working with SEND children, young people and families.
As described in other posts, and as anticipated by FVS, the sought after 2018/19 efficiency savings are not being realised, with a 2018/19 overspend against budget of at least £15m reported in July to the SCC Cabinet, due in part to increased demand. This leads us to focus on working to get right the major transformation/ restructuring work and longer-term - up to 5 years - budget and plan setting now underway at SCC In the light of the financial challenges and recent ‘inadequate’ rating Ofsted inspection of Children’s Services. A draft budget and plan will be agreed by full Council in November, followed by consultation, with an adjusted final budget and plan being signed off by full Council in February.
We now hope to be working with the SCC team from early September on this. We will engage with SEND families and seek put forward the views we hear from them, both to influence the SEND transformation plan – content and timing – and to test that the anticipated impact on families’ lives is firstly realistic and secondly likely to bring positive change where possible rather than additional risks.