Undemocratic cutbacks for new schools

On Tuesday Labour's Cabinet Committee (composed of only three labour councillors) made the decision to cut various parts from the Building Schools for the Future programme, ignore problems in other areas and give the leader of the council sole responsibility for any other changes without him having to consult other elected councillors.

The three Labour Cabinet members (who did not include the person responsible for schools) decided that the plans which schools had made for their new buildings were simply too expensive and that cuts had to be made.  The key cuts made were:-

  • At Plumstead Manor, the school wanted a Performing Arts Block and space allocated to vocational education on the North of the site.  The new block and the Post 16 space has been cut to reduce costs by £3m.
  • At Eltham Hill, the plan to build a new block has been changed to refurbish a new one.  In addition the plans to provide a good size sports hall so that County Standard facilities for Basketball, Badminton and Volleyball have been shelved.  This saves £3m but reduces the number of tennis courts and keeps a block which has 'poor circulation' according to the Council (which means pupils can't mover around it easily).

The meeting also decided to ignore problems created by the site allocated to the proposed new John Roan School.  These plans meant that the intake for the school would increase to approximately 240 per year (from 210) but the play space available to the students would fall below minimum government standards.  In addition the Council is considering placing a Museum within the new John Roan building.

Leader of the Conservative Group, Cllr Spencer Drury, who spoke at the meeting to express his concerns over the plans said:

"These plans are a real muddle and reflect the fact that the Council does not appear to know what it is doing with education."

"On the one hand it has given John Roan a site which is clearly too small and increased its numbers, while on the other it is spending money on Compulsory Purchase of a pub and vicarage next to Plumstead Manor and can now no longer afford the buildings to expand the curriculum at this good school."

"The Council is also playing with the numbers in schools, with the overall effect of all this change being to reduce the places available in our schools.  Surely a more sensible proposal would be to create a new school and reduce numbers in schools that are overcrowded even under the current proposals."

"These fundamental problems reinforce my view that Labour do not really understand what the parents, students and teachers of this borough want when it comes to education."   

"Lastly, all future decisions about the future of these plans will be taken by the Labour Leader alone.  This strikes me as undemocratic and will reduce the amount of scrutiny that this programme receives.  It is a disgrace."