Photo credit: @buffywills Elizabeth Williams
I came across this news story today, and my jaw dropped:
Leighton Andrews has stood up and, as local AM, supported this school against its local Council’s attempts to close it. Wow.
The Council says: “Rhondda Cynon Taf council (RCT) has just completed a consultation on closing Pentre Primary School which has just 73 pupils with a capacity of 202 – a 64% rate of unfilled places.
The council says this is the highest rate of all 138 schools in the borough, adding that as a result of a directive from Mr Andrews, they propose to deal with these surplus places by amalgamating Pentre with nearby Treorchy primary.”
Mr Andrews responds: “As assembly member for the Rhondda I have made a very full submission to RCT on this issue, […] I have also attended a public meeting called by the Pentre parents action group, met the action group, and attended their recent demonstration. I have also met parents from Treorchy Primary school who are also affected by the proposal.
All local authorities, including RCT, have to reduce surplus places. There is clear Welsh government guidance which local authorities have to follow when they propose the closure of any school. My submission questions whether RCT have, in fact, properly followed this guidance.
I make no apology for standing up for my constituents in the Rhondda“.
And he shouldn’t have to. He is doing his job as a local AM. Something which our local AM, Rosemary Butler, refused to even look at. “As, I am sure you are aware, provision of school places is a matter for the Local Education Authority and as I have no direct influence over such decisions I do not believe a visit would be helpful at this time.”
It seems Mr Andrews would not agree with you there, Mrs Butler, that it is only a matter for the LEA. As a local AM, you should have at the very least investigated our deep concerns, listened to us and met with us. We even went to the Senedd – your office, so to speak – invited you to attend and you still did not show up to give us support. That was left to your Conservative colleague, Mr William Graham.
And look who else is in the photo, local MP Chris Bryant. Where has our MP, Paul Flynn been? Erm, his response was “In the 26 years since I have been an MP, I have never become involved in issues of this kind. There are many issues for which I have sole responsibility. In this case the matter it is for your councillors and ultimately the whole Council to decide. Your cases must be made to them.”
I’m not exactly clear what issues are his sole concern, but should they not be those that affect a significant portion of his electorate?
To be fair to our local councillors, they did attend one community meeting in January, at which Mark Whitcutt managed to offend a lot of parents (http://www.southwalesargus.co.uk/news/10158731.Anger_as_parents_meet_over_Gaer_schools_merger/). They did also attend the demonstration, if only to get us off the pavement and into the council chamber, where Cllr Whitcutt again managed to offend the whole room (http://www.southwalesargus.co.uk/news/10449592.Newport_school_campaigners__disrespected__councillor/) , and Cllr Wilcox insinuated that I was only leading this campaign because I had ‘political ambitions’ (https://savegaerschools.wordpress.com/2013/05/25/the-meeting-with-the-councillors/).
So, not such great support then.
There is no conflict of interest for Mr Andrews so far as I understand it – his issue is not with the plan to reduce surplus in the area, nor even in that particular school, but the way the the consultation has been handled. And in any case, I am sure he must recuse himself if the decision lands on his desk at the end of the process. But I doubt the local Council will stand up to the Welsh Minister on this. More than likely, they will not press forward with the Statutory Notice. But, who knows?
He has also had the same concerns with his Welsh Minister for Education hat on, over the proposal to close another school – Rhosgoch school in Powys. Again, the concern was the way the consultation was carried out, not the proposal itself.
I wonder if our local LEA are starting to have any concerns that maybe – just maybe – they have conducted a flawed consultation too?
I hope that Mr Andrews sees the sense in our campaign when it comes before him, that he will see what we see – that the consultation is not only flawed, but also completely unnecessary and unjust.
I applaud Leighton Andrews, AM and Chris Bryant, MP on taking a stand for something they believe in. Bravo, sirs!
What a shame our local councillors Mark Whitcutt, Debbie Wilcox and to a slightly lesser extent Herbie Thomas, as well as Rosemary Butler, AM, and Paul Flynn, MP are not so concerned with their electorate’s deep-seated concerns and objections.
Well, 2015 and 2017 are not so far away now, are they?