Cllr. Iain Brodie Browne, Leader of the opposition on Sefton Council, has been doing a bit of number crunching since Sefton Council’s Labour Leader, Peter Dowd, made some claims which Iain thought were erroneous at the last Council meeting about school places. Iain’s checks on one particular school in Southport seem to prove that he was right to be sceptical of the Labour Leader’s stats.
I am aware of others doing similar number crunching on school places following Cllr. Dowd’s speech which had quite a number of us scratching our heads about his claimed number of vacancies.
Labour-run Sefton Council wants to build thousands of houses on Green Belt and high grade agricultural land in Sefton Borough (including a vast ‘New Town’ bolted on to the east of Maghull’) and their Local Plan is the way they trying to do that.
You can read Iain’s blog posting on this matter via the link above.
I accidentally landed on this issue via the Local Government Information Unit site but it made me think about the potential for such a problem building up in Sefton, with building being the big word here!
Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland has called Leeds City Council’s planning “appalling” claiming it has left the city facing a primary school places crisis. The accusations centre on a potential shortfall of about 4,000 places in primary schools.
Whilst Sefton is not yet is such a crisis there is sadly a real chance that it will encounter similar problems because of the Labour-run Council’s rush to build house in the Borough.
We all realise that Labour will most likely now authorise building on Green Belt and high grade agricultural land, having just completed a public consultation exercise which was very much based on such a scenario. Along with Labour taking all kinds of flak for proposing this they have also been criticised for the lack of any infrastructure planning to sit alongside the houses they are planning to build.
One of the significant infrastructure issues will be schools and school places but apart from vague promises along the lines of of ‘this will be sorted out as the planning applications are progressed’ it is not at all clear that anyone in the Council has really thought through the implications of a house building programme in terms of schools, GP’s, dentists etc. etc.
It’s bad enough to tell us that Sefton is determined to build on Green Belt and high grade agricultural land but then not to have any clear answers about the consequences of such a policy is making some folks wonder what on earth is going on. It seems Leeds is further down this most worrying track.
Allegations that Labour is stopping a Council Scrutiny Committee from looking into the problems occurring due to a shortage of primary school places in parts of the Borough (particularly Southport & Formby) are being made.
Although the official figures for Sefton Council’s Primary School placements have not yet been published, it is known that many Southport and Formby Primary schools, in particular are full up already – with a rising birth rate putting more pressure on in the coming few years.
Birkdale Lib Dem Councillor Richard Hands, who proposed that the Council’s Children’s Services Scrutiny Committee should study the School Place problems says
“I do not know what Labour are playing at. They have Scrutiny Committees looking at all sorts of issues that the Council can do little about yet they refuse to look into the problem of school place provision which is a number one consideration for young families in many parts of the Borough.
I have been monitoring the pupil numbers for some time and have raised my concerns repeatedly. There over 900 houses being built soon on the Kew estate and the surrounding schools are full. Where are those children going to go? Will we be having to bus children to other parts of the borough?”
Southport councillor Tony Dawson has been asking for the figures on school places and demand for each school all through the summer.
“I have been fobbed off with the most bizarre excuses. Firstly, I was told that the figures were only provisional. Apparently, in Stalinist Sefton Council, some council officers are allowed to see provisional figures but no one else is.
More recently, I have been told I cannot see the figures because the Cabinet Member has not seen them yet. Maybe if the Cabinet Member was as interested in the problem as I and my Lib Dem colleagues are, perhaps we could all share the figures and see what needs to be done to address the problem?!”
Earlier this month, Ainsdale Lib Dem Councillor Haydn Preece caused uproar in the Council Chamber when he declared that the lack of a sensible policy for school places in Southport & Formby meant that we could face a prospect of bussing small children to Bootle where there are hundreds of spare school places.