PARENTS from Hay-on-Wye have voiced their clear opposition to Powys County Council's plan to close specialist units for children with additional learning needs (ALN).

Next month the council’s cabinet will hear a recommendation against the proposed changes – set to come into force this September – which will also include the closure of pre-school assessment centres.

But a consultation on the council website has found residents calling for a delay to ensure Powys children would not be left with insufficient ALN provision.

Councillor Graham Brown said: “The Authority recognises and respects the views and concerns of parents and carers whose children are in receipt of enhanced provision.

“Due to potential changes to ALN legislation at a national level, and to ensure that any changes to educational provision are carefully planned, the recommendation is that the Authority at this time does not proceed with the closure of the units.”

Alongside that recommendation are proposals for a new parent group to work alongside the schools service, a review of the budget for special educational needs and the reassessment of ALN policy in line with legislation from Welsh Government.

At the cabinet meeting this week, councillors also agreed in principle to a handing over the running of Powys’ leisure services to a not-for-profit company as they seek to take more money of the council's books.

Mirroring the relationship Herefordshire Council has with Halo, a private company could step in and handle the county’s facilities, including Hay’s swimming pool and nearby Gwernyfed Sports Centre.

With a new arrangement set to be in place as soon as April 2015, Cllr Brown said the move would ease pressure of facilities.

Forming a partnership with a not-for-profit is seen by the cabinet as the best option in the face of the council’s difficult economic situation.

Cllr Brown, Powys’ cabinet member for leisure, said: “The county’s leisure services are facing huge financial challenges and the need to change the way the service is delivered has been apparent for some time.

“We have been looking at a number of alternative management including the establishment of an ‘arms-length’ organisation.

“While setting up a company is attractive, the scale of the challenges facing us and the need to deliver savings quickly means that working with an established not-for-profit is even more attractive.”