Protesting SEND cuts outside Leicester Council. Photo: Steve Score
Protesting SEND cuts outside Leicester Council. Photo: Steve Score

Steve Score, Leicester Socialist Party

A silent but visual protest in the council chamber on 16 May, and an active lobby outside, marked the latest protest in the campaign to reverse Leicester Labour City Council’s cuts to special needs school transport. Like many other councils implementing cuts to virtually all non-statutory services, they decided to attack the most vulnerable.

It is a legal responsibility to get your child under the age of 18 into education. It is a recognised need and a legal duty for councils to provide travel support to children with special needs – apparently that ends at 16!

Beginning with my son’s letter to councillors (published in the Socialist issue 1264) and another parent’s online petition, the SEND 16+ campaign has grown to a large group of parents.

We have used every weapon we can. We have demonstrated, produced flyers, got a lot of media coverage, put questions to council meetings, lobbied councillors by writing to them and going to their surgeries. Parents in our group have also started judicial review legal proceedings.

The city council Unison branch has supported us by pointing out how flawed the so-called consultation had been, and issuing its own press statement. In the consultation, more than two years ago, parents of students who will now be impacted were not written to.

Leicester City Council has used the excuse that it is trying to avoid a ‘Section 114’ notice. But it is cutting so many services that it might as well have issued one! They have stopped funding adventure playgrounds and the remaining children’s centres not cut in previous years are now under threat.

One parent put a question to Labour’s shadow chancellor on the local radio station: ‘Are Labour prepared to put money into councils so that these vital services can be sustained?’ The answer was ‘no’.

Just as we are fighting to defend attacks on services by a Labour council now, we will have to continue under a Labour government too.