Tag Archives: Rhondda Cynon Taff

Why I support Leighton Andrews’ stance

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Photo credit: Wales Online, by Andrew James

It has not been an easy week for the former minister.  A tweeted picture of him at a demonstration opposing a school closure in his constituency has led to the First Minister asking him to resign.

He, however, has no regrets, and neither should he.

“It’s been an unexpected week, but I don’t regret standing up for my constituency.

 

“It’s important local people see they have a community representative with a passion who makes an effort to stand up for them.

 

“The issue for me is that all councils need to ensure they’re spending their money efficiently and in the correct way, including getting a grip on surplus places as this has an impact on money.

 

“But in addressing these issues it’s up to the AM to scrutinise these proposals and make sure they make educational sense and are in the best interests of the community.”

 

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/former-education-minister-leighton-andrews-4734959

I could not agree more with him.  Rosemary Butler and Paul Flynn both declined to even look at – let alone scrutinise – this proposal.  It is not in the best interests of the community and makes little educational sense. Yet neither of our senior elected representatives know this as they preferred not to hear about the proposal.

It’s important local people see they have a community representative with a passion who makes an effort to stand up for them.

Hear hear!

And my personal view is that Councils in some cases have used the vague cover of “surplus” as a kind of “catch-all”, “get-out-of-jail-free” card to push through other proposals they want to see happen, especially when they do not have the money to accomplish them in other ways.

I may of course be wrong, but the proposal to amalgamate our schools would seem to be an example of this.

They need an ASD school but cannot afford to build new, so they identify a school building which they wish to use then justify its closure using the WAG 10% surplus guideline (knowing full well that within 5 years neither school will have any surplus at all, and this September, the Infant school will have just 7% surplus).

There are other schools in Newport with similar or worse levels of surplus, but they are not facing this situation.

So, knowing more now, I still say “Bravo, Mr Andrews”.  You put your constituents before your high-level political career, and I’m sure they are rightly grateful and proud of you for doing so.

 

 

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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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