Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Ermine - cart before the horse

One of the most incredible moments of the entire surplus schools debate came today when the Portfolio Holder admitted she had not even seen the submission from Lincoln City Council.

I and others were shocked a couple of weeks ago when a senior officer of the council revealed that we had not been supplied with copies of all the letters of protest about the school closures. He said he had a box full of them in his office.

We were supposed to be considering the results of the so-called consultation process. But we weren't allowed to see the responses, not even from Lincoln City Council!

Today was even more shocking. The Portfolio Holder who took the decisions - Councillor Patricia Bradwell - was challenged on why the consultation meeting had not been given copies of the submission by Lincoln City Council.

Instead, the meeting was given a verbal resume - one person's interpretation - of what was in the submission.

Today, Councillor Bradwell was repeatedly asked to supply copies but steadfastly refused. Under pressure, she eventually admitted:

"I have not seen the letter from Lincoln City Council."

How could she have taken due and proper notice of representations if she has not even seen them!

Sadly, the Chairman of today's meeting - retired Group Captain Edward Bliss - refused to intervene.

Instead, he actually proposed that the decision to close Ermine Infants and merge it with Ermine Juniors should go ahead.

So much for the Chairman's impartiality...

He voted for closure, along with all the other Conservatives. The result was a dead heat. 14-14.

You've guessed it. The Group Captain voted a second time...and pushed the Ermine closure on to the next stage.

So the decision was made without the benefit of any members seeing the submission from Lincoln City Council.

In the lunch-break, Labour Group Leader Rob Parker put in an offical request to see the letter under the new Freedom of Information Act.

Guess what? By the end of the day, we were all given copies of the letter.

But only after the decision had already been made!

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