Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Goldsmid By-election latest: Blow for parents as Tories ban schools deputation

The latest twist in the Brighton and Hove by-election campaign really beggars belief: the city's Tory mayor has blocked a discussion of school places at this Thursday council meeting - fearing an anti-Tory backlash.

Green Party candidate Alex Phillips has sought to bring a 'deputation' to the council this week so she could address the council, as a local resident, on the need for a new primary school in the area.

A deputation is the constitutional mechanism for local residents to bring issues of community concern before the council.

In what will be seen as a yet another blow for parents, Mayor Ann Norman has barred Alex Phillips from making the deputation - claiming that any discussion would be likely to become party-political and therefore be in breach of election rules designed to ensure the neutrality of council-business immediately prior to an election.

This is clearly nonsense - the lack of primary school places is an urgent issue, and it certainly isn't a party political one. Alex is a Goldsmid resident, and was to have made the appeal on behalf of local parents' group Action4Kids.

And putting off a discussion of the issue until October effectively sweeps it under the carpet for another school year - and means another cohort of Hove children - and their parents - will be unable to find a primary school place anywhere near their homes.

The only realistic reason for Cllr Norman's decision is to avoid public criticism (members of the public, as well as local journalists, regularly attend full Council meetings) of the Tory administration's complete failure to ensure enough primary school places are available in the area.

Alex said: “Currently there are around 120 primary-aged children in the BN3 area who have to travel either to Portslade or to Brighton to go to school. I know of one case where a reception class pupil will face almost two hours of travelling on a daily basis!

“It’s unacceptable to expect children to travel this far for their education and it’s high time the council sorted the situation out. But the Tories aren’t even prepared to discuss the problem, let alone try and fix it.

“Local parents feel well and truly let down. The council urgently needs to stop side-stepping the issue, and expanding existing schools isn’t good enough.

“We desperately need one - if not two - new primary schools in Hove. The current situation is bad for the local community, bad for local families and - worst of all - means failing local children."

The meeting in question takes place at Brighton Town Hall from 4pm this Thursday, July 16 - it's open to the public and all are welcome (Quite separately, I'll be asking for fairer water charges for those living in council-owned blocks of flats).

Alex's banned deputation reads:

“This deputation concerns the urgent need to find a reasonable solution to the lack of local school places in Brighton and Hove. Currently there are around 120 primary-aged children in the BN3 area who have to travel either to Portslade or to Brighton to go to school. This simply is not good enough. The council should stop side-stepping the issue by expanding existing schools, and simply build at least one, if not two new primary schools in Hove. The current situation is bad for communities, bad for families and bad for our children."

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