11:10am Thursday 14th February 2013 in Letters
THERE appear to be some party political games being played in the press at the moment with claims that the Vale Council has made decisions on the future of education in the Vale of Glamorgan. I should like to make it abundantly clear that the Labour led Cabinet in the Vale of Glamorgan have not made any decisions about the closure of schools in the Vale of Glamorgan, despite rumours and accusations to the contrary.
It is regrettable that I have to make this statement, but I have no alternative because of recent press speculation and the scaremongering tactics by the local Conservative MP and the Conservative Leader in the Assembly. This really is scaremongering politics at the worst level. Regrettably the press have run stories and people have believed the rumours and scaremongering without knowing the facts.
These rumours emanated from a Part 2 ‘confidential’ council report that was presented to a recent Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee. This report was produced by a multi-party group of councillors (including independent) who formed a task and finish group. The Group was tasked to check if schools in the Vale of Glamorgan had more than 10 per cent of surplus places and if so whether there could be a rationalisation of the system to reduce these surplus places. This task was undertaken after the Welsh Government instructed council’s to look at the school surplus places in their area. The task and finish group found that there are approximately 15 per cent of surplus places within the schools in the Vale and made recommendations to rationalise the schools as a result.
These recommendations were reported confidentially to the Scrutiny Committee and will subsequently be considered by the Vale Cabinet in a couple of weeks’ time. The report to Scrutiny was confidential because there were recommendations contained within it that were simply ‘recommendations’ and contained information that had the potential to give those who ‘could’ be affected cause to worry etc. For that reason they were shared with the relevant head teachers given the nature of the report. Regrettably the recommendations were ‘leaked’ prematurely and there are allegations that the code of conduct within the council may have been breached.
To date the Cabinet has simply received the report from the Scrutiny Committee but is not due to consider the proposals for some weeks. It has therefore not been decided whether to accept their findings at all, either in part or in full. That will be a matter for the Cabinet to decide but in any event any decision made by the Cabinet will be subject to public consultation, before any final decision is made. From what I have seen to date it appears that (speaking from a purely personal level) some things suggested may not be agreed, but as I have indicated that is a matter for Cabinet to decide when it considers the recommendations, but whatever action is considered it will be in the best interest of all Vale of Glamorgan residents.
At this point perhaps it would also be pertinent to make it abundantly clear that the Welsh Government have confirmed that if we have more than 10 per cent of surplus school places in the Vale (we actually have 15 per cent), that unless we do something to address it they will carry out the exercise for us. There is also the issue that if we reduced the 15 per cent surplus places to nil it equates to £960,000 per annum, which could be reinvested into the education of children within the Vale.
I am sorry that there has been so much speculation and anguish caused but no final decision has been made, although it is inevitable that some action will have to be taken. However I would confirm that the Labour led Cabinet’s ethos is clear - should we proceed with any of the scrutiny recommendations, we will do so, to provide the best services possible under the constraints within which we have to work.
Neil Moore Council Leader Democratic Services Vale of Glamorgan Council