Posted: Thu 28th Mar 2024

Conservative Councillors Criticise Lack of Information over Closure Proposal for Powys Pupil Referral Unit /

THE lack of information over proposals to close a pupil referral unit (PRU) in Powys to save £600,000 over two years has been slammed by Conservative councillors.
At the Powys County Council meeting to set the 2024/2025 budget back in February it was agreed that the council need to make £10.652 million in cuts, savings, and income generation to balance the books.
A proposal contained in the £10.652 million is one to “remodel the service delivery” for PRU’s which could save the council £352,555 in 2024/2025.
The proposal would save a further £251,285 in the following financial year.
The potential saving along with many others emerged in January when the Liberal Democrat/Labour cabinet draft budget was published.
During the budget scrutiny process back in late January and February concerns were raised over the lack of detail on the proposal.
The Conservative group have pointed out that two months on – there is still no sign of a plan around the PRUs.
They say that there are two sets of anxious staff at the PRUs in Brecon and Newtown, as well as concerns on what the impact will be on some of the county’s most vulnerable children.
Conservative, Cllr Gwynfor Thomas who chairs the council’s Learning and Skills scrutiny committee said: “I have continued to make the point that scrutiny has had no sight of any model or plan.
“We have real concerns for pupils and staff with the implications of any change to the current model.
“I have had a few conversations with current staff, and none know what the future holds for them.”
Cllr Thomas added that he had spoken to Liberal Democrat education portfolio holder Cllr Pete Roberts on the issue last week.
Cllr Thomas said: “Although there are some proposals on the table, he does not seem to know what they are.”
At last week’s meeting of the Learning and Skills scrutiny committee which discussed member going out to visit schools Conservative group leader, Cllr Aled Davies suggested going to a PRU.
Cllr Davies said: “I’m quite keen to do something with the PRU’s to understand the impact on the provision.
“There’s talk of potentially working closer with schools or having them (units) on school sites as an alternative.
“But it’s really important we get a really clear plan before any changes are implemented.”
A spokesman for Powys County Council said: “Following the budget decision a full business case is now in preparation in advance of a formal management of change process.”
At a meeting in February when the PRU proposal was discussed, Cllr Pete Roberts said: “The severity of problems that we face mean we have to bring things forward more rapidly.
“The PRU paper is one example.”
PRU’s are small specialist schools that deal with children who need greater support than mainstream schools can provide.
Pupils attend PRU’s for a range of reasons including exclusion from mainstream school due to behavioural issues, mental health issues and illness.
Local authorities are legally obliged to offer this kind of alternative school provision and Powys has two PRU’s, one based in Newtown and the other in Brecon. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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