Agenda item

Questions to Cabinet Members and Chairmen


(1)  Councillor M. Vines asked why were the children at Abbey School being removed to other schools when this school was still open and there was no mandate as yet to close it?


The Cabinet Member for Education and Children’s Services explained that after considering the findings of the recent inadequate Ofsted Report, coupled with the well known long standing historic issues at Abbey School, the Local Authority decided that the best option for the pupils, to ensure their educational needs were being met and they receive a good quality education in a safe and secure environment, was to propose closure and to offer parents the opportunity to transfer pupils to other good special schools across the borough.


Discussions were being held with individual parents/carers to ensure that any new school would be able to meet their child’s needs.


In a supplementary question Councillor M. Vines asked if this was still only a proposal why were staffing ringing parents to ask if they wished their children to move places, why had staff left Abbey School and the Ofsted inspection where it would appear it was the management that was a problem not the children or the staff.


The Cabinet Member for Education and Children’s Services pointed out that the proposal was still out for consultation, but SEN staff were telephoning parents asking if their children did wish to transfer schools in the best interests of their children in order to move their education forward.


In terms of the relationship with management and staff at the school, Ofsted had regarded the leadership as a strength, but this was disconnected from the school, which was a problem and needed to be resolved.


(2) Councillor C. Vines asked should RMBC publish on its website the names and photos of all Rotherham licensed taxi drivers to give customers more confidence and would aid identification if any offences was committed especially in light of CSE linked to taxi companies mentioned in the Jay report?


The Chairman of the Licensing Board confirmed that the Council were currently working with a software provider that would allow the online publication of all of the Council’s licensing registers.  This facility would allow members of the public to view information in relation to licensed drivers, and would include details of licence number, date that the licence was granted, date of licence expiry, details of operator, conditions attached to the licence and details of any Licensing Board meetings relevant to the licence holder.


It may be possible to include photographs of individual licence holders, however this was something that would need to be discussed further with the software provider.  This was because the online register drew information from the Council’s database as a text field and it was not clear whether this could be tailored to include images.  If this is possible then this is something that could be brought before the Licensing Board for consideration.


However, as the questioner was aware, the Council was in the midst of a public consultation with regard to the processes and procedures that were in place around the licensing of drivers, vehicles and operators.  One of the proposals related to the identification of drivers and vehicles.  The current requirement was for all drivers to wear an identification badge issued by the Council, and for vehicles to have a sign fixed to each front passenger door of the vehicle and a licence plate fixed to the rear of the vehicle.  The introduction of the following additional requirements was being proposed:-


·                A licence plate to be fixed to the front of the vehicle.

·                A notice fixed to each rear quarterlight of the vehicle giving details of the vehicle licence (the notice must be able to be read from both inside and outside the vehicle).

·                A notice fixed to the front windscreen giving details of the vehicle licence (again, the notice must be able to be read from both inside and outside the vehicle).

·                A notice to be displayed within the passenger compartment of the vehicle that gives details of the current driver of the vehicle (the notice must be clearly visible and able to be read from the passenger seats in the vehicle).


It was envisaged that these additional requirements would make it much easier for passengers to identify both the vehicle and the driver and should give reassurance to the passenger that the appropriate licenses were held and also allow them to obtain the details of the driver/vehicle in cases of complaint.


In a supplementary question Councillor C. Vines did not believe it was a problem to include photographs, but provided the general public with the assurance that if an incident arose then they could clearly identify the person in question.


The Chairman of the Licensing Board pointed out the importance of a victim of a crime reporting any complaint either  to the Licensing Board or to the Police who would investigate any crime involved.   As there are over 1100 licensed drivers, it was considered that the involvement of the Police in this way would be a far more effective method of investigating crimes, and would minimise the chances of incidents occurring as a result of mistaken identity. 


(3) Councillor Jepson asked following the recent A57 improvements at Todwick, £100,000 was being spent on a footpath in the area with no proven need and asked why had this surplus contract money not been spent repairing the local roads damaged by the resulting traffic diversions or on a much needed pedestrian crossing at South Anston.


The Cabinet Member for Safe and Attractive Neighbourhoods explained that the completion of the A57 major highway scheme resulted in a short ‘missing link’ of footway on the eastern side of Todwick Road, the B6463. The construction of a new footway to Todwick Road in 2010 extended only as far as Pocket Handkerchief Lane; the A57 scheme, in essentially its present form, and the associated CPO orders were published in 2009 and the eventual construction of the scheme removed most of the hazards that had made the route inaccessible. The missing link between the two schemes was on a bend in the road at a place where the verge was narrow or non-existent.


Various and numerous representations and enquiries have been made regarding this missing link, that would open up a pedestrian route along the whole of the B6463. These included the Clerk to Todwick Parish and Sir Kevin Barron MP. An earlier planned scheme, to link the public footpath at the approximate mid-point of the bend, to Pocket Handkerchief Lane was, therefore, adapted to instead complete the missing footway link.


The scheme was funded from the Local Transport Plan Integrated Transport Budget under the theme of ‘connectivity – walking road crossings’ and was not funded from surplus contract monies from the major scheme budget. Any surplus main contract funding would be ploughed back into highway maintenance.


To support the answer to the question Councillor Watson confirmed when the road was built the original footpath was detailed, but concern had been expressed to him at surgeries that there was not a safe walking route to Dinnington.


In a supplementary question Councillor Jepson asked if the Cabinet Member would be prepared to meet with himself and other Ward Members and representatives of the Parish Council to discuss concerns within South Anston in the New Year to see if matters could be moved forward given the number of the complaints.


The Cabinet Member for Safe and Attractive Neighbourhoods agreed she would meet with Councillor Jepson along with the Transport Manager to see if matters could be progressed.


(4)   Councillor Reeder asked could the Leader explain why a school in Rotherham had been allowed to overspend by nearly £1 million pounds and why was this allowed to happen by the L.E.A. and Governors?


The Cabinet Member for Education and Children’s Services explained the school was not £1 million pounds overspent, this was a projected figure.  The Council would be ensuring that a sound financial Recovery Plan was put in place.


In a supplementary question Councillor Reeder asked if she could be told the exact overspend figure and had it affected the children who were in attendance at the school.


The Cabinet Member for Education and Children’s Services was unable to confirm the exact overspend figure, but explained the projection was based on staffing resources, which were now being reduced.  A recent monitoring report from H.M.I. had confirmed that the situation at the school as now improving and good structures were now in place.


(5)  Councillor Hunter thanked the Council for its commitment to upgrade its low paid employee salaries from the minimum wage to the living wage and asked could the Council confirm that this transition would not be used to increase the already generous Councillors’ allowance which was roughly based on the minimum wage?


The Leader explained that Members have for a number of years declined to take an increase in their allowances which reflected the national pay increase for staff.  Members would need to consider whether they wished to accept the increase on this occasion.  The current allowances were determined by the Council in 2011 following the recommendations of the Independent Remuneration Panel and they were not based on the minimum wage.


(6)  Councillor Turner asked what was the final deal with Tescos to encourage them to move from Forge Island to the valuable real estate in and around Walker Place?


The Cabinet Member for Business Growth and Regeneration explained that Tesco’s lease their new store from a private developer who paid the Council the commercial value of the site around Walker Place. This capital receipt was £7,330,051. In addition there was a recent overall capital receipt to the Council of £2,934,664.  In addition the Council have the option, until 31st December 2015, to purchase Forge Island.


In a supplementary question Councillor Turner pointed out that the relocation of the Tesco store had never been raised in Scrutiny, but it was his understanding that the sale of the town centre site had been negotiated through a third party and asked why was this necessary.


The Cabinet Member for Business Growth and Regeneration explained that he was unaware that it had been negotiated through a third party, but as part of the decision making process that area of town formed part of the Town Centre Masterplan when it was decided to build Riverside House.  This Masterplan would have been presented to Scrutiny as part of this process, but the site vacated by the Council on Walker Place was identified and purchased by Tesco, who had also created two hundred extra jobs as a direct result of their relocation.


(7)  Councillor Cowles referred to the last Council meeting where the Deputy Leader made an unfounded and unresearched allegation, that the register of interests of UKIP Councillors was incorrect.  Legal Services have now stated “There has been no failure to disclose an interest by any UKIP Councillor” and asked if she would apologise for her wild and unfounded allegations when he had, in fact, got four register of interests from Labour Councillors who were in the same position as UKIP Councillors?


The Deputy Leader found this to be an odd accusation seeing this started with Councillor Cowles himself making wild and unfounded allegations about the Deputy Leader.


As it was said last month two members of the UKIP Party did not declare an address in the Rotherham Borough,  The Deputy Leader was pleased that the Monitoring Officer had advised these Members that they were not required to disclose their address as evidently it would have been a serious matter otherwise.


The Leader thanked Councillor Cowles for bringing the information about Labour Members to the Council’s attention and welcomed the sharing of this information.  In turn he would share the information from a UKIP Councillor’s register of interests he had looked at yesterday which was not up-to-date.


In a supplementary question Councillor Cowles pointed out the allegations were not wild, but simply questioning how many days a week the Deputy Leader was in Rotherham being paid a substantial sum from the public purse and at that time the register of interests was not up-to-date.  He believed that by making unsubstantiated statements it cast doubt on the statements made by some Members and also on the judgement of the people that elected them.


The Deputy Leader explained to Councillor Cowles that she had merely pointed out that some UKIP Members did not appear to live in the Borough as they did not declare that they lived in private rented accommodation.  She was surprised to learn that privately rented properties do not have to be declared.  She herself lived in private rented accommodation and did declare this on her register of interests, but had sought advice from the Monitoring Officer, Association of Labour Councillor's and the Local Government Association.


(8)  Councillor Middleton asked could the Cabinet Member for Education and Children's Services outline the disciplinary measures which would be considered in dealing with dereliction of duty displayed in the disastrous handling of the case of a twenty month old child in Rotherham recently dealt with by Mr. Justice Holman in the High Court?


The Cabinet Member for Education and Children’s Services review of the practice regarding this case was being undertaken and appropriate management action would follow.  It was important to note that the Department would not be operating a blame culture, but developing a learning culture.  This was the best way of improving the many difficult decisions which were taken every day to improve the lives of vulnerable children and their families.


(9)   Councillor M. Vines confirmed she had been approached by parents of children who have been asked by the Education Authority to move their children to other schools and were now asking if they can bring their children back to Abbey School as many now feel the real reason is to reduce numbers to close the school?


The Cabinet Member for Education and Children’s Services explained that the reason parents were being offered an alternative school place was to ensure that their educational needs were being met in a good special school.  The Council have not had any parents contact them to return their children to Abbey School.  What had been received was positive feedback that the Local Authority have taken action to ensure the children’s needs were met in a good school. 


In a supplementary question Councillor M. Vines asked if the responses from parents could be provided in writing.


The Cabinet for Education and Children’s Services confirmed that the information could be provided, but this would have to be anonymised.


(10)  This question was excluded by the Mayor as this referred to party political matters and not those related to the Borough.


(11)  Councillor Hunter referred to the public noticing a large number of seemingly vacant Council properties across the Borough and were saying the Council was deliberately leaving them empty in order to save money.  Could the Council impose a reasonable minimum turnaround period on empty properties to demonstrate that this is not the case?


The Cabinet Member for Safe and Attractive Neighbourhoods confirmed that in the last nine months the number of empty properties (Council stock) had, with the exception of three weeks over the summer, never exceeded 200 units.  This was less than 1% of the total stock.  There had been a recent increase due to evictions but the number was still around 1% (213 units as at Monday, 8th December, 2014).


The aim was to keep the number at 1% or less in normal circumstances i.e. around  35/40 terminations per week.


In terms of turnaround significant action had been taken to reduce this and currently it stood at 22 days (target 25 days) which compared with 29/30 days in 2013/14 financial year.  This was an upper quartile performance and the best it has been for some years - possibly ever.  This also needed to be considered in the context of improving quality set against a background of increasingly poor standard of returns due to abuse.


Clearly the position would be worked upon to maintain the position and improve where possible, but overall the position was excellent by which ever measure you choose.


The Council had a Key Performance Indicator for Void Council Houses, it monitored this on a weekly basis as it was very important this was as efficient as could be in the way voids were managed.


This financial year 1214 void properties have been brought back into use. Placing priority on investing in bringing void properties back into use would continue to ensure rent losses were kept to an absolute minimum and give  residents in  housing need the best opportunity to access affordable social housing.


In a supplementary question Councillor Hunter asked if there could be an opportunity placed on the website where members of the public could report when an property was empty.  Some of the houses may be empty when residents leave and the Council may be unaware.


The Cabinet Member for Safe and Attractive Neighbourhoods confirmed she would forward any telephone numbers etc. where such information could be reported.  It will be a minority of cases where the Council were unaware a property was empty.


To assist Councillor Swift confirmed that as part of his Ward arrangements the Housing Champion for his area would report into a housing surgery any properties that had been reported as empty.


(12)  Councillor Turner asked was it not a fact that hundreds of thousands of pounds were spent by the Council in public and private consultation over several years to evolve a master plan for Forge Island culminating in an aesthetic state of the art model of the project incorporating cinemas and a theatre?


The Cabinet Member for Business Growth and Regeneration confirmed there had been no public consultation activity on Forge Island, or development of a master plan, since the original Town Team activity and the launch of Rotherham Renaissance.  There was no Forge Island aesthetic model indicating development of a Cinema and Theatre, although it was no secret the Council still had aspirations to deliver a major leisure scheme in the town centre.  No site had been earmarked, but would involve the Council working with investors.  Resourcing had mostly been limited to officer time in discussing development and inward investment with private sector developers and operators.


In a supplementary question Councillor Turner expressed his confusion as he could recall lots of consultation taking place about regeneration in the town centre when he was a Councillor.  A model of some kind was available and it was no secret to Tesco that their site was earmarked by the Council for some kind of development.  If viable scrutiny had been undertaken he may have been made aware of other information.  He asked would it not have been better to negotiate a price for Forge Island before creating the plan for the town centre’s future.  The Council have hiked up this project to such an extent that Tesco were now able to command the price for this site.


The Cabinet Member for Business Growth and Regeneration explained that Forge Island would have appeared in the town centre masterplan and would do moving forward.  Development of the town centre did just not include Forge Island, but also included the Guest and Chrimes building, Westgate and Royal Mail Depot.  The town centre masterplan would have appeared in documents presented to Scrutiny.  The Rotherham Growth Plan would also be circulated for consultation in the next few weeks and would appear at Scrutiny in the near year and Members of the relevant Select Commission would have the opportunity to consider and make comment on the content.


In terms of the deal with Tesco taking over the Walker Place site, this was completely separate to any discussions taking place around Forge Island.  Other options were being considered for Forge Island potentially delivering a public sector hub via the Government given the positive development in Riverside House.


To assist Councillor Sangster shed a little more light on the comments about the model for the town centre.  Yorkshire Forward were involved with the Rotherham Town Team about Forge Island and did have a model made showing a theatre and cinema development on this key site, but this was funded from Yorkshire Forward and not the Council.


(13)  This question was excluded by the Mayor as this referred to party political matters and not those related to the Borough.


(14)  Councillor Hunter referred to many Council employees being anxious at the proposals to contract out all Adult Services with the exception of Enablement after the May, 2015 election and asked could the Council shed some light on these anxieties?


The Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health regarded the staff in Adult Social Care as some of the most dedicated, well trained and committed staff in the country.  If there were options to change any way services were delivered then they would be subject to proper consultation with staff, trade unions and service users.


In a supplementary question Councillor Hunter took this as a yes that this would be considered.


(15)  Councillor Cowles asked now that the perfidious Roger Stone had resigned and the immense embarrassment it has caused, due to the fact the Council were told there was no way of removing him, would the Council be in favour of a local recall system being put in place to make Councillors more accountable to the public?


The Leader hoped that all Councillors were in favour of maximising accountability and transparency and it would of course be a matter for Central Government to determine whether to implement the system suggested by Councillor Cowles.


In a supplementary question Councillor Cowles was pleased to hear that the Leader was in agreement and gave the Council the opportunity to lift its reputation out of the gutter and give the people a chance to elect people to serve them.  Councillor Cowles was happy that the Leader would should some leadership and introduce a system that would recall the Council’s Constitution.


The Leader pointed out that he had not said what Councillor Cowles had suggested, but that would be up to Central Government to introduce a system not this Council.


(16) Councillor Cowles asked did the Council currently have an Elected Member on the Board of Magna, and if so, could you please tell him who that person was?


The Leader confirmed that Councillor Sharman was nominated as the Council’s representative to the Magna Trust Limited by the Leader as his replacement on the 12th November, 2014.


In a supplementary question Councillor Cowles pointed out that Magna had over £500,000 in outstanding loans and over £300,000 to be repaid this year.  In view of the fact that the customer facing side of the business was almost defunct and the organisation relied on corporate entertainment it must compete with other locations in times of financial risk would the Leader give his assurance that no further public money would be provided from this Council?


The Leader explained that the short term loan position was reviewed annually and this Council as part of its budget deliberations had asked for a report to be brought forward to consider on Magna.


(17)  Councillor Cowles referred to the Shadow Work and Pensions Minister, Rachel Reeves, stating recently that the current welfare system was “never designed for the levels of migration we are now seeing”.  Would the Leader of the Council agree with these comments about the impact of immigration on our welfare state?


The Leader explained that as Elected Members would be aware the current welfare state had its origin in the post-World War Two era.


Founded by Beveridge, he put in place the core elements of the current welfare state namely social security, a national health service, free education, access to council housing and achieving full employment.


Clearly society had moved on and there were many factors that could not have been envisaged by Beveridge at the time. Therefore, the welfare state had evolved under successive Governments who have attempted to make adjustments to reflect demographic and other changes including the impact of migration.


However, the Leader believed the founding principles of the welfare state to provide support for those in greatest need from “cradle to grave” was still relevant today and there was nothing in the statement issued by The Shadow Work and Pensions Minister, Rachel Reeves, that contradicted this.


In a supplementary question Councillor Cowles pointed out that Rachel Reeves was not the only Labour Member who had recently discovered that immigration had damaged the lives of many people that Labour founded to support.  Ed Milliband attacked the Prime Minister last week for missing his migration target and Yvette Cooper on the 18th November, 2014 asked for a call for action to control the impact of migration especially on low skills, jobs and wages.  So in the space of a couple of years Labour had gone from screeching racist at anyone that mentioned this issue to saying it was now a massive problem.  Academics like Harvard Professor Economics George Borger indicate that high income earners won while low income earners lost and the bosses of large companies were winners while the low skilled and low paid working class were losers.  The Leader was, therefore, asked which one did he want to get rid of and which one did he wish to keep – immigration or the welfare state?


The Leader confirmed an answer to this question would be provided in writing (see addendum attached to the minutes).


(18)  Councillor Cowles referred to several Councils located in economically deprived areas carrying out extensive research into the lack of minimum wage enforcement in their wider Borough.  Had this Council conducted any research recently into how effectively the minimum wage was being enforced and if not, why not?


The Cabinet Member for Environment was not aware of any research being undertaken into how many employers may or may not be paying below the national minimum wage.  In the interest of collaboration the Cabinet Member gave an undertaking to go back and look at the enforcement around the minimum wage.


This is a matter of legal enforcement by the Authorities and not the Council.  Any rates of pay below the national minimum wage are against the law and the advised route is for employees to report this practice to the HMRC who were responsible for taking action. 


The minimum wage was one of the proudest achievements of the Labour Government for the people of this country.  It took people out of poverty and tackled the longstanding issues in communities.  It was opposed by the Conservative Party and was proven to be a fantastic initiative in the long run.


The Council also needed to ensure that the enforcement referred to above would be lobbied to Government to put this into the hands of Local Authorities where it was found that companies were abusing the minimum wage which would allow the Council to have some control and be in a position to tackle the issues.


In a supplementary question Councillor Cowles pointed out that the Government’s Migration Advisory Committee found that inspection regimes were insufficiently robust where it was found that the minimum wage was not being paid.  Enforcement was not robust and penalties were feeble.  An employer could expect a visit from HMRC once every 250 years and prosecutions never.  In short Local Government would have to do something about this as Central Government was not interested in doing their job.  Councillor Cowles was happy to hear that this Council wanted to see devolvement about the minimum wage enforcement down to a local level.  He, therefore, asked if it could be investigated and any abuse stamped out?


The Cabinet Member for Environment explained the current Government had only prosecuted two organisations which was not right and agreed that Central Government did not see this as a priority.  If the current Government were not prosecuting then the Labour Government would make it tougher, harder and enforce the minimum wage and make sure that workers were not exploited because they were trafficked from Europe into Britain, make sure that people locally were not under valued or under paid because other people were cutting them out.  He quoted information in the press that an extra 51,000 people had been referred to food banks because of low pay.  Rotherham did pay a local living wage and was doing everything in its power to make sure people got out of the cost of living issue and back into full employment.


(19)  Councillor Cowles raised the issue on segregation within our education system to ensure that children within Rotherham integrate to ensure community cohesion.  There were four schools within Rotherham (see below) where English was a second language.  What action or review had the Leader taken into our catchment area system?



Number of Pupils

% Who do not speak English as first language

St. Ann’s



Broom Valley










The Cabinet Member for Education and Children’s Services explained that the majority of these schools were good schools.  St Ann’s, Broom Valley, Thornhill - Good with Outstanding - Ferham - Requires Improvement.


All these schools were community schools and, therefore, reflected the communities which they served.  The issue of community cohesion was developed through the school and Local Authority mission.


There were a number of activities including the school’s linking project which sought to develop partnerships, and understanding between communities.  All schools, as expected by Ofsted, were encouraged to develop British values through the curriculum as well as celebrating the diversity within the school and town.


Under the Admission to School code of practice, parents/carers have the right to make a preference for any school they would like their child to attend. If a place was available it must be offered to that child.


Catchment area category only came into force where there was oversubscription criteria to consider e.g. during the annual Foundation Stage 2 (Reception), Y2-3 Transfer and Y7 applications. In these cases the catchment area resident with a sibling in school, catchment area resident then distance from the school would be the criteria used to allocate places.


Catchment area boundaries were determined by the location of the school, housing in proximity to the school, distance to the school and local infrastructure e.g. major roads, transport routes etc.


Even if the catchment area boundaries were changed to the above named schools, under the parental preference regulated by the Admission to School code of practice, parents/carers would still have the right to express a preference for any school.


Anyone not offered a place at their preferred school had the right of appeal to an independent Appeal Panel.


In a supplementary question Councillor Cowles pointed out at the last meeting that leading academics had stated that this was a problem for working class children.  They suffered from a lack of opportunity and their education went on to continuously suffer.  Yet again it was the children of the wealthy who got all the benefits.  Those who suffered the consequences were working class children.  This should show why Rotherham needed to transform its school catchment area system at primary and secondary level in order to ensure this was eliminated as a problem and ensure that those could be integrated who came here and British working class children were not the ones who were made to suffer.  It was too important not to take seriously and everyone needed to agree on a way forward so whoever was in office this problem was dealt with.  So as a matter of priority would the Leader of the Council look into this matter, as he said he would, and come back to this Council Meeting with a solution everyone could agree on?


The Cabinet Member for Education and Children’s Services asked if Councillor Cowles was suggesting that the education being received by children in the four mentioned schools was not good?


Councillor Cowles pointed out that academic were suggesting that where there was a high percentage of children who did not have English as a first language the education of working class children was impeded.


The Cabinet Member for Education and Children’s Services explained that from her own experience of teaching at one of the mentioned schools children went on to attend University and have achieved employment success and referred to a former pupil of St. Ann’s who was studying at Oxford University.


Councillor Wallis wished to draw Councillor Cowles’ attention to the fact that these figures were about children who did not speak English as a first language and suggested that the Council should be praising these children that they were learning English, Maths and other subjects in a second language.  Praise should also be offered to these children who were sharing their language skills with their parents.  Councillor Wallis represented one of the Wards of one of the schools indicated by Councillor Cowles and observed people’s attempts to integrate and suggested some Members should be a little more tolerant and should be offering support instead of submitting questions such as this.


Councillor Parker, on a point of order, asked about Standing Orders and why the Mayor had allowed other Members to ask a supplementary question, other than the original Member who put the question.   He believed this was discrimination against the opposition with this practice being allowed and asked this be ruled fairly and impartially.


The Mayor pointed out this was allowed as Chairman’s discretion and had not denied anyone the chance to speak.


Councillor Currie referred to Councillor Cowles’ interest in the education of young people and asked if Councillor Cowles would like to volunteer as a school governor.


Councillor Roche pointed out education was a wonderful thing and it was factual that some of the high performing and most improved schools in this country, as recorded by Ofsed, were in areas where children did not speak English as a first language.  One of the most highest performing schools in London had the highest percentage of children whose first language was not English.


Councillor Parker referred to Councillor Roche’s comments above and pointed out that the location of the school was not shared, nor how affluent the children’s parents were who did not speak English as a first language who went to that school.  It was ridiculous to come up with a statement such as this.


To come back to the catchment area part of the original question the Cabinet Member for Education and Children’s Services pointed out that the reason that people chose St. Ann’s was because the school as good at teaching children and massive expertise at teaching children who had at least thirty different languages as their first language.


Councillor Reeder asked for proof that these children whose first language was not English were not holding back British born children as a great deal of time was taken to teach bilingual children.  She was led to believe that a problem did exist in at least one school she had previously quoted.


The Deputy Leader pointed out that there had been quite a lot of debate about this issue and suggested to Councillor Cowles that he visited the schools with the Cabinet Member and the Director of Children’s Services and had a proper look at what was happening in those schools.