THE FINANCIAL case behind plans to close a special needs school in Monmouthshire has come under fire.

Monmouthshire council is consulting on closing Mounton House School in Pwllmeyric, Chepstow, which caters for boys aged 11-16 with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties.

One of the main reasons behind the plan is the amount it costs the council to fund places for Monmouthshire pupils, which is an equivalent of £114,731 each.

This is due to just seven Monmouthshire pupils attending the school - and with this number predicted to fall by September - the cost is expected to rise to £232,238.

Plans to widen provision at the school, so that it could cater for girls and pupils aged three to 19, were scrapped last year as costs were estimated at £6.4million.

Documents show the abandoned reorganisation would have saved the council £500,000 per year.

At a Lower Wye area meeting on Wednesday, Cllr Louise Brown said broadening provision at the school still made the most sense.

"These figures are greatly affected by even a small increase in the number of pupils," she said.

"I do not think the finances work. We are going to end up in a position with a high in county demand."

Cllr Brown also raised concern that uncertainty over the school's future was impacting on pupil numbers.

However Will McLean, chief officer of children and young people, said the proposal was about finding out how best to cater for pupils with additional learning needs, including those with autistic spectrum disorder.

"At the moment the school is constrained by three key elements," he said. "It's age range, it's just boys, and that its designation is just for pupils with Social Emotional Behavioural Difficulties.

Community councillor Graham Down called for a 'rethink of the proposal, adding: "If the council can buy a site in Newport for £21m I do not see why it cannot borrow £6million to develop Mounton House."

But Mr McLean said the £6.4million needed to borrow was not "self-financing", whereas the purchase of Newport Leisure Park offered a return.

Mr McLean gave a "categorical assurance" that pupils would be supported in an "appropriate environment" and not in a mainstream setting.

Cllr David Dovey, former chair of governors at the school, said the plan needed careful consideration.

"The one thing I hope is it's not decided by the last penny," he added.