School decision is 'robbing poorest in the county' says councillor
A Fenland councillor has launched a vitriolic attack on fellow members of Cambridgeshire County Council over a decision to leave building a new school in Government hands.
Councillor Sam Hoy said she could have "burst into tears" following yesterday's meeting of the county's children and young people's committee and slammed members for "potentially robbing the poorest in our county".
Coun Hoy made her attack in an email sent to all county councillors after the meeting, which saw the safety net of possible county council funding of a new secondary school in Wisbech removed.
It came after the committee ratified a decision, already reported in the Citizen earlier this month, to leave building a new Wisbech secondary school in the hands of the Department for Education, who is now looking for an alternative site to the one previously chosen by the county council off Barton Road.
It means there could be a delay in delivery of the 600 place free school, which will be run by the Brooke Weston Trust, which is in control of the Thomas Clarkson Academy in the town, if the DfE decides to go with an alternative site.
Coun Hoy said: "I understand how politics works, I get that other people are now in charge but I can’t imagine ever voting to do this to your area, if I was in the controlling group.
"A decision was made to remove the Wisbech secondary school from the capital programme. The excuse used was that Government was funding it.
"We all know that’s a cop out. The Government has said they will fund this school for many months, but we are also aware of the dangers of problems emerging with the funding, so we had left the scheme in the programme as a fall back. A fall back that’s now been removed.
"Let me be clear - officers confirmed today that the school is needed, they confirmed that committee had the job of making the decision on whether to leave the school in the programme or not…. These were choices we could and had the power to make.
"There was no reason to remove that budget line, it was costing us nothing if, as you claim, the Government will deliver. If the Government does not deliver it will cost us everything.
"This school was promised by all parties when we (Conservatives) had no overall control but now it seems that you are so desperate to save money you will make cuts from the poorest town in the whole county.
"You have potentially robbed the poorest in our county of their future and to add insult to injury you are now claiming it as some sort of success.
"Leaving it in the programme would have done no harm at all but you let the whip be more important than standing together and doing the right thing."
In a press statement the council explained the new school will be delivered in Wisbech funded by the Department for Education.
It said the county council withdrew its existing proposals to build new provision in the town in January when the Brooke Weston Trust was chosen to run the school.
Adding: "But today’s children and young people’s committee heard that the council is continuing to work with both the Trust and the DfE to further develop their vision for a new school.
"The views of the public on this proposal will be subject to a separate consultation process run by the DfE, who will now be responsible for the procurement and delivery of the school."
It also added that Jon Lewis, Cambridgeshire’s director of education, confirmed to the committee that there is currently enough secondary provision in Wisbech to meet the needs of local children until the new school is delivered, but that the timetable for this rests with the DfE.
In a separate press statement the council confirmed the new social, emotional, and mental health needs school was still going ahead and would be built alongside the new secondary school.
When questioned about how the possible site change could affect this project, which is due to be built by the county council next year with the public consultation on the scheme for Barton Road only closing last month, a council spokesperson confirmed it was still going ahead.
Stating: "There are no plans to delay the new SEMH school, however any project such as this does carry the usual developmental risks."
But the spokesperson also confirmed they would not know the DfE's decision on whether to go with a new site or stick with Barton Road for the secondary school "for some time yet".