Dear Editor

I am pleased that Councillor Batstone has acknowledged (Sat. Mar. 9th) the courage of those parents of vulnerable children who spoke at the Shadow Unitary Council Budget Meeting on the 20th February. I am only sorry that the acknowledgement did not come at the meeting.

I have just rechecked some details of the meeting, which Councillor Batstone seems to have missed. The issue was an opposition-proposed additional recommendation of £5m to the children's budget, to be taken as a one-off, ring-fenced sum from reserves to try to get the seriously dysfunctional service back on track. As clearly explained in the debate, there was no need to cut something else (a point not acknowledged by Councillor Batstone) and the reserves would remain at a responsible level.

For the Conservatives, Councillor Butler replied that, "children's services are up-to-date", a reply so complacently detached from reality as experienced every day by parents of children with special needs that it led to my hyperbolic metaphor of distant galaxies in my previous letter on the subject. He was also confused about the purpose for which the extra money was being proposed.

Councillor Ferrari then added some uncontroversial comments on the importance of having a reserve, then claimed that the proposed reserve was "in the middle of the range recommended." It was immediately pointed out to him that actually it was toward the top of that range, and taking out the proposed £5m would bring it close to the level that he had so lauded. Councillor Ferrari instantly admitted "I stand corrected", but continued with the argument that now had no foundation. Councillor Ireland made a swift and incisive demolition of the Conservative case.

Perhaps those members so avidly checking their budget figures could have given Councillor Ferrari a warning that he was getting confused.

Given an overwhelming case made by the Opposition of need tempered by responsible caution, it was distressing how meekly the ruling party's members voted to reject it, and voted instead for the continuing compromise and impairment of children's futures and continuing family distress.

Yours sincerely

Barry Tempest

Romulus Close, Dorchester