The meeting was…interesting. It was exactly what I expected – nothing of any real value was said, but that ‘nothing’ spoke volumes. In fairness to Cllr Wilcox, she did make clear that she does support the proposal because she believes the end result will be a school ‘fit for the 21st Century’.
They claimed that behind the scenes they have been working hard to put our concerns and objections to the Education Department. This may be true, but we have no evidence to support or disprove that claim. There have been no changes to the proposal and, as I showed in the blog post here they have not represented us well in writing. If they have made representations, clearly they don’t have the influence they might think that they have, as nothing has changed!
Cllr Wilcox said that they have had assurances that what we will get will be a 21st Century school. She claimed that money will be spent on upgrading the whole school, that (some) facilities lost will be replaced (Cllr Whitcutt piped in that we’ll get a new timber trail!) and that the end result will be brilliant. To the bemusement of all the parents and children, she then claimed that the Infants’ building is in a shocking state of repair! When confronted with our evidence that disproves the claims of what we will get, they repeated that they had had ‘assurances’, but could offer no proof. They even said that the officer who gave us the information in the meeting a week ago at the Juniors which our Chair attended, is not a ‘senior’ officer and implied that he does not know what the plans are. I had actually seen him (the officer) outside the Council Chamber and asked him directly why the plans he had spoken of are so restrictive, not even including toilets for the nursery children, and he replied that it was not in his control, all he had done was relay what he had been told and explain how he would be able to facilitate that (his job is implementation, not to design the proposal in the first place).
Cllr Wilcox was adamant that they would fight tooth and nail to get this school they are promising (the phrase “seven figure sum” peppered her speech). ‘Did we really think that they would settle for anything less?‘
My answer to that is, yes, Councillor, I do believe that you will settle for whatever we are given. You have given no evidence for this ‘fantastic’ new school – in the face of our evidence – and have totally failed to fight for us on this. Why would we believe that you will suddenly fight for us after the decision is taken? You seem to have had no influence now on the proposal, so what makes you think you’ll have any more influence on the Education Department when it comes to the far tougher reality of actually spending money?
I was mildly amused by Cllr Wilcox’s opening gambit, in which I was accused of using the campaign as a springboard for my own political ambitions. I guess the post here really hit a nerve. It is actually an insult, to suggest that I am not really interested in saving the school but am actually plotting my own rise to local political power and using the campaign to get there. And as for the facetious comments about my ‘polished lobbying skills’ and saying she would like to have me working on her team, all I can do is laugh!! I’m not a lobbyist, Councillor, I’m a parent.
I have asked other parents to give their views of the meeting, so that the accusations that I am ‘misrepresenting them’ can be put where they belong – in the bin.
Firstly, Lisa Ball (also our newest parent governor at the Infants)
The peaceful demo did exactly what we planned. It got our voices heard (some more than others!) but remained within the boundaries of ‘peaceful’. There should be no doubt that there is and always has been strong opposition against this proposal. The fact that other ward councillors were able to show their support, but our own ward councillors could not do this is a disgrace.
If Cllr Herbie Thomas, as he stated, has always been against it, why hasn’t he shown us more support? We can all say that we have ‘been doing things behind the scenes’ but where’s the proof in that? Our proof is very transparent for all to see.
As I have previously quoted in letters to all of our ward councillors, there regulations state that they ‘are the voice of the community within the council’. I don’t feel that they have fulfilled their role. It was stated by Debbie Wilcox in the meeting that there are many people in the community, for and against this proposal. I beg to differ, there may be a few for it, but through our diligent door knocking and speaking to THEIR electorate during this campaign, I only came across one person who was for it, but once the ‘deal’ was explained to her, she realised that it was not as good as it sounded for the Gaer children and happily signed an opposition letter (incidently she had 2 grandchildren with autism who were having to go out of county for education).
I feel that the councillors invited us into the chambers to get us off the street rather than to give us any answers.
One of my friends who came to support us (who has nothing to do with the school) is a body language expert. When we left, he asked me who ‘the bloke on the end’ was (Cllr Mark Whittcut). He said that his body language was so disassociated and uninterested in anything that was going on.
The fact that Cllr Whittcut said that we were ‘disrespecting’ him was disgraceful, who does this man think he is? Respect is earned……what has he done for us to respect him? His reason that we were disrepecting him because people were talking over him was preposterous as he was doing exactly the same. I could rant all day, but I’m going to end on a lighter note, they didn’t get my best side in the Argus photographs!
Secondly, Phill Doherty:
I am dumbfounded by the reactions of the Councillors. Okay we don’t think they council very well, but it’s hardly a personal attack! The fact that there are so many disappointed/desperate people of the Gaer, they should feel compelled to up their game rather than take umbridge to criticism!
If we feel let down/angry it is appropriate that they take responsibility and not attempt to worm out of the situation with text book replies and distracting language. Even if they had acted appropriately, the information is not getting cascaded down to the people and that in itself is not good enough.
I appreciate I don’t know the etiquette, but why is everything so cloak and dagger, surely when children’s welfare is being considered, everything should be transparent.
I think the meeting was a waste of time, they attempted to shut [Debbie] down, refused to listen to facts. I think Hannah’s passion was needed because they couldn’t pacify that with nonsense answers!
I thought the protest was a success as I saw some people stopped in their tracks in the corridors. And the councillors were seen in public with no election imminent, they must be running scared.
I can only hope they have an epiphany and change their minds and do represent us to the Assembly.
So, there you have it. The meeting was supposed to be a chance for the Ward Councillors to repair some bridges with us (I imagine, based on the letter they passed out to us all) rather than to discuss the proposal and how they can support us in our opposition.
Self-defence, self-justification, self self self.
All they did was cement in the minds of those present – and by now most of the rest of the Gaer who have been told about it – that our Ward Councillors are only interested in themselves and their own positions, not in their electorate.
So if they hoped to pour oil in the waters, they failed spectacularly.
Nice job, Councillors.