A LACK of adequate provision for children with special educational needs was highlighted by a councillor at a meeting on Thursday.

Addressing the expense of transporting youngsters to schools outside of Darlington, the town’s Conservative leader Cllr Heather Scott has said that there are not enough facilities within Darlington to meet demand.

The rising number of children who must travel outside of the area to attend special schools has contributed significantly to budget pressures within Darlington Borough Council’s children’s services division, according to a council report.

A meeting of Darlington Borough Council’s Efficiency and Resources Scrutiny Committee saw members discuss a report recently presented to cabinet members that said the division was forecasting an increased year-end pressure of around £130,000.

Additional demand from areas including the council’s leaving care team and the transport unit is contributing to financial pressures, though some savings have arisen due to staffing vacancies.

The report said there had been an increase in year-end budget pressure of around £160,000 in the transport unit “due to a rise in the number of children attending special schools inside and outside of Darlington that require transport in order to access the school.”

Cllr Heather Scott, a director at the Education Village which encompasses special needs school Beaumont Hill Academy, said the expense arises in part from a lack of local provision.

She told the committee: “There is a shortage of places in the town for children who have additional needs and this is part of the problem.

“It is something that a lot of local authorities are struggling with but transport has to be provided for them – this is something we must look at.”

A full review into the council’s options for home to school transport has been launched in a bid to tackle the problem.

It is an issue also experienced in other local authorities, with North Yorkshire County Council recently announcing plans to ask parents to contribute £490 annually to fund their children’s transport costs.