(1) A member of the public referred to Item 8 on the agenda relating to Council Tax Support Grants to Parishes 2015/16 and asked what consultation had taken place between the Council and Parish Councils?
The Deputy Leader confirmed that correspondence had been sent to all Town and Parish Councils. Both herself and the Cabinet Member for Safe and Attractive Neighbourhoods had attended the Parish Network Meeting where this matter was discussed and in addition responses had been made to any queries that had been submitted.
In a supplementary question the member of the public confirmed he had attended the Parish Network Meeting and had seen the correspondence that had been submitted and in his opinion believed the consultation was a fait accompli, but asked if Labour were making a mistake with agreeing a report on Parish Councils before the election?
The Deputy Leader referred the member of the public to the report at Item 8 on this agenda and the detail. As part of the consultation process Parish Councils had been listened to and to assist with the reduction in grant funding a freeze would be made for 2015/16 and the reduction managed in subsequent years.
(2) A member of the public referred to the proposed closure of Abbey School and out of eighty-seven students only forty-seven were now left on site, with another seven proposed to leave and it was proposed this was the start of the Abbey closure which made a mockery of the democratic consultation process.
The Strategic Director of Children and Young People’s Services confirmed the consultation process was still live, at pre-consultation stage, and no decision had been taken on the closure of the school. A report had been commissioned to look at all matters relating to Abbey School and would be published in due course.
In a supplementary question the member of the public believed the departure of students was making Abbey School unviable, especially if the number of students was reduced further. How could the school remain open if the core of students was reduced? Abbey was a good school and with the right support could be a good school again. Parents were voting with their feet and how could proper consultation take place if the core of students were reduced?
The Strategic Director of Children and Young People’s Services noted the concerns about the viability of the school and confirmed this would be taken into consideration as part of the consultation process. A consultation event had been arranged with parents where they could ask questions of the Local Authority regarding the issues going forward.
(3) A member of the public expressed her confusion as to why the leadership put in place at Abbey School, had failed at every level according to Ofsted, had not been replaced and left the school to sink when it could have been saved?
The Strategic Director of Children and Young People’s Services explained that this issue would be covered in the scope of the report indicated above.
In a supplementary statement the member of the public asked do the Local Authority not think it would have been a good idea to have kept parents fully up-to-date with what was happening and for them to put their views across initially.
(4) A member of the public asked why Abbey School still had a partial closure on health and safety grounds. If it was safe for some students to come to school, surely it was safe for them all as there were sufficient staff available.
The Strategic Director of Children and Young People’s Services explained the decision to close part of the school was not taken lightly and was purely on the grounds of ensuring the safety of the pupils and not placing them at risk. The safety of the students was paramount and it was hoped that the school would re-open to all students on Monday, 19th January, 2015.
In a supplementary statement the member of the public asked if the Local Authority really appreciated the effect on parents when children were not attending school when they were entitled to a good education.
(5) A member of the public asked if Peter Bell was going to speak to other parents and members of the support group?
The Strategic Director of Children and Young People’s Services confirmed that Peter Bell would speak to parents.
In a supplementary question the member of the public asked how parents could contact Peter Bell?
The Strategic Director of Children and Young People’s Services confirmed that if parents wrote to him he would pass the information onto Peter Bell to make contact.