The budget for social care for adults and children in the Dorset Council area was £172m in the last financial year – equivalent to nearly 70 percent of the revenue generated through the Council Tax we pay; and yet there is still a need for further provision in certain areas.
Our Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) families in West Dorset tell me they experience a lack of specialist support and education close to home. Travelling outside Dorset to access this support not only makes their daily lives more challenging but considerably adds to the cost to taxpayers.
I have raised this issue with Dorset Council and with Ministers and that’s why the purchase of the St Mary’s School site near Shaftesbury, set in 55 acres and with outstanding facilities, is such welcome news. Now I encourage you to complete Dorset Council's short survey so that your view on this is understood.
CHRIS LODER MP 10th February 2021
Complete the survey
Dorset Council has now opened a public consultation on its preferred option to transform this building for the benefit of SEND education across Dorset; local people are invited to complete a short survey on this by 18th March - visit: St Mary's Survey
DORSET COUNCIL SAYS:
Dorset Council has purchased the former St Mary's School site near Shaftesbury. Opportunities to secure a site with these educational facilities and land are very rare.
Currently more than 250 Dorset children and young people with SEND are educated in expensive, independent provision, many far out of our county. This currently costs around £14 million a year. Travelling far from Dorset is not always the best option for our children and young people and we want more of our children to be educated closer to home.
We purchased St Mary's School for £10.05 million, excluding taxes and fees, so that it can become a resource for Dorset for generations to come. The site comprises 165,000 square feet of mixed-use accommodation set within grounds of 55 acres. It would cost considerably more and take years to build a facility like this to accommodate a SEND school or any of the other potential options from scratch.
The site at St Mary's has been purchased using money from Dorset Council's 2020 to 2021 Capital Budget. The purchase forms part of the council's 5 year £145 million capital programme which is financed through a combination of government grants and money from the sale of assets. The use of the site is expected to save significant revenue expenditure that would otherwise be incurred by the council.