Tuesday, January 31, 2006

What the Leader didn't want parents to know...

Text of letter I've sent tonight to County Council Officer Dr Allan Crease and copied to Council Leader Councillor Martin Hill...

Dear Dr Crease,
May I raise a couple of points following this evening’s public meeting regarding the closure of Lincoln Ermine Infants School and merger with Ermine Juniors.

First, I listened carefully to the presentations by the Portfolio Holder, the Director and yourself, who all stressed the importance of giving parents, governors, councillors and others the full facts before any decisions are made.

However, I was concerned at the opening premise that the schools were listed for merger:

'...because it is the policy of the Council to have all-through primary schools'.

This was followed by a presentation on the generic case for all-through primary schools, which I assume you are screening at all the meetings concerning the initial 17 infant and junior schools listed for closure and/or merger.

In my opinion, it is disingenuous not to make clear from the platform that the Council has adopted the ‘all-through’ policy only AFTER publication of the proposed list of closures and mergers. A chronological presentation of events would, I believe, be more informative.

Second, may I seek your advice on the position of elected members at these public meetings, and more specifically, my position as Shadow Portfolio Holder for Education:

I felt it reasonable at tonight’s open forum to make a short contribution from the floor to offer the following facts which were missed out of the platform presentations:

1. Clarification of your observation that ‘the highest number of surplus places are in the infant/junior schools’. I believe the public meetings should be told as part of the platform presentation that there are 8,000 surplus places in Lincolnshire’s primary schools and 2,000 in infant and juniors.

2. The fact that there are far higher proportions of surplus places in some all-through primary schools than at some of the 17 infant and junior schools now listed for closure and merger.

At the briefing meeting at the Labour Group office to discuss the handling of the current process, you kindly asked if I wished to be on the platform at each of the public meetings.

However, at this evening’s meeting, the Council Leader made it clear that he objected to me making a contribution, pointing out to the meeting that ‘...Cllr Dilks works for the Labour Party and is not even a local member of the Council...' (and then ironically suggesting I was raising 'red herrings' by mentioning the situation at schools in his own backyard).

I understand that Council Leader, who is driving the policy of closure/merger of infant and junior schools, may not wish parents at schools under threat to be informed that there are 200+ surplus places in all-through primary schools in the area he represents.

But when the Lincoln schools under threat have 25 per cent and 30 per cent surplus places respectively, is it not relevant to ask why a school with 70 per cent surplus places that happens to be in the Council Leader’s division is NOT listed for closure or merger?

I’d appreciate your advice on the status of myself and colleagues at the rest of the meetings planned in the current process.

Yours, most truly,

Phil Dilks,
Member for Deeping St James
Shadow Portfolio Holder for Education

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There was a near disaster after a visit to Newcastle by Cabinet Minister John Reid. Labour’s rent-a-mob was gathering up discarded balloons and leaflets we had been waving for the cameras. Phil Dilks, a veteran Press officer, was carrying a phone in one hand and a large ‘Vote Yes’ board in the other.

But a couple of silly teenage girls began to shout: “Yes, yes, oh yes!” mimicking Meg Ryan’s famous fake orgasm from When Harry Met Sally. Phil didn’t see the funny side. He threw the board to the floor, dropped his phone (showing he had only been pretending to be on a call), sprinted across to one of the girls and delivered a well-aimed boot to her backside.

She landed in a crumpled heap in a shop doorway. Everyone fell silent as he pulled himself together and came back to his abandoned sign and phone. The girl wasn’t seriously hurt, but Phil was fortunate she did not complain to the police about the assault.