Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cabinet Decision

The Labour/Tory non-coalition cabinet met at 4.30 tonight with the first item on the agenda being Building Schools for the Future in the South of the Borough. I don't know how many residents turned up to hear the "debate" but the room was full and not many stayed for subsequent items.
This was cabinet government at its worst. A council officer gave a very clear report on the options, much easier to understand than reading the report with all its tables. Then the cabinet member and Labour parliamentary candidate for Stockton North proposed that cabinet approve 4 options for further investigation. The leader of the council seconded the motion then asked if anyone had anything to say. For over an hour and a half people did say what they thought. At the end of the speeches and questions and answers the cabinet agreed what they had already very obviously agreed prior to the meeting. The cabinet member didn't need to explain to them why he was proposing those four - he just did it.
His statement that nothing would be done to compromise the Park turned out to be a hollow promise. It became clear from the report being presented that the Preston Park option would include the allotments as well as the overflow car park and part of the South field. What's more the catchment areas would be redrawn such that pupils from the southern part of Eaglescliffe would go to Conyers school, not Egglescliffe. Neither of these things was made clear to us when we were "briefed" about the school options. When we said that we didn't think the overflow car park was big enough we were told that the field would be needed but no-one mentioned the allotments. We have tried to keep our residents informed and to consult them on things being suggested but it seems we've been doing it with one hand tied behind our backs at times.
The residents who attended the meeting went hoping to see the Preston Park option thrown in the bin where it should be. They left, cheated. Cheated of a genuine debate and cheated of the wise judgement that they should be able to expect of the ruling non-coalition. The influence of an election round the corner was all too obvious - Ingleby Barwick has almost twice as many electors as Eaglescliffe. Perhaps tellingly, the MP for Stockton South made sure that she sat far away from the Eaglescliffe councillors and made no effort to come and speak to us. But maybe she didn't see us!
So £40000 will be spent on a study on whether building a school in the park is a deliverable option. The result will be known after the General Election - how convenient for the cabinet member and his colleague in the south of the borough.

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