Leighton Andrews….standing up for his own constituents

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Photo credit: @buffywills Elizabeth Williams

I came across this news story today, and my jaw dropped:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-23039749

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.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-23036021

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?

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3 thoughts on “Leighton Andrews….standing up for his own constituents

  1. sarah osolinski says:

    Hear, Hear! Well done to Leighton Andrews and Chris Bryant for making a stand against the process of amalgamation, we can all well understand his position as our fight has proved that the authority seems to be unable to know which hand is doing what at any given time! It gives me hope.

  2. gdw100 says:

    I’ve been fighting the closure of Rhosgoch. The consultation process is dire. The information given out is total garbage. They know that they just need to sit tight and schools earmarked for closure will lose pupils. We had no alternatives given to us. They didn’t want us to join up with another school. They just wanted to shut Rhosgoch. All the promises about shiny new schools never materialised. They harp on about reducing surplus places so that those folk with kids in other schools think they’re being done a favour; what they never point out is that reducing surplus places is increasing average class sizes in all the other schools. Two schools shut just because they were earmarked for closure and all the kids went elsewhere. If your local councillors and AMs and MPs don’t support you then what are they doing? We’re supposed to have democracy but there’s very little evidence of it in this process. Do they seriously believe that the majority of voters want increased class sizes? Good luck with your fight!

  3. debbie1haile says:

    Hi Gary! It is EXTREMELY frustrating, isn’t it? Our numbers are rising (the infants will have less than 7% surplus in September) but they are pressing on anyway as they want our building for an ASD school.

    No-one listens: they ‘consult’ but then totally ignore all non-positive responses. The fight is so hard and long and wearying that they must hope that we will just lie down and roll over, like good little citizens. Information is next to impossible to come by. They refuse to answer questions, or give such ‘political’ answers as they might as well not have bothered to respond. When asked specific questions relating to the proposal (like, “You say we will have less than 10% surplus across the 2 schools by 2018 so why are you pressing ahead with the proposal”, they just give a metaphorical shrug and move on.

    But we cannot just ignore what we as parents and communities know to be true – a school is far more than a building in which teaching occurs. It is often the very heart and soul of a community, something into which generations of pupils and staff and governors and parents and neighbours have poured their money and time and love and inspiration, which cannot just be replicated elsewhere.

    Class sizes rise (in your case), space and facilities are stripped away (in ours and maybe yours too). Bottom line figures take the place of professionalism and heart and inspiration.

    The children lose.

    I would LOVE to know what Leighton Andrews wrote to the RCT Council, how had they not followed the procedure? Obviously your Council had not, either, and it may well be that Newport has not. How can we know? Will he now make public what the flaws were so we can learn from them and use them to fight our own cases?

    Every blessing to you and your school. With the changes at the top that happened yesterday, who knows, you may have had your permanent reprieve, not just a temporary one!! All the best to Rhosgoch Primary from the Gaer schools.

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