Sarah Teather’s Education proposals Con-Demned by her own Lib Dem Party members

The Liberal Democrats today gave their overwhelming backing to a campaign against the expansion of Sarah Teather’s Education policy on school academies and have called for a boycott of free schools in the strongest public show of concern by rank and file activists over the party’s role in Coalition Government. They called on all Lib Dems to actively “urge people not to take up the option” of creating the “free” schools championed by Tory Education Secretary Michael Gove and Brent Central MP and Education Minister Sarah Teather.

Teather branded it an “illiberal boycott” and according to the BBC, Teather pleaded to delegates “Don’t vote for a boycott, don’t tie councils’ hands.” However, Former Lib Dem MP Dr Evan Harris argued that it was not illiberal for Lib Dems to be allowed to campaign on issues they felt strongly about.”We must be free to fight the Tories at a local level up and down the country,” he said.

While Sarah Teather pleaded with members of her party to vote against the motion, her Department’s policy was ConDemned for treating pupils like tins of beans.

According to the Guardian, Lib Dem Councillor Peter Downes, who moved the motion said, “Just as the supermarket drives the corner shop out of business, so it will be with schools. When Sainsbury’s provides some new products to lure people away from their competitors, the unsold items in the failing shops can be returned to the wholesaler or sold off in a sale. But not so in schools. Pupils are human beings, not tins of beans.”

What the motion said:

F23. Free Schools and Academies

In relation to ‘free schools’, conference calls on all Liberal Democrats to urge people not to take up this option because it risks:

1.       Creating surplus places which is prejudicial to the efficient use of resources in an age of austerity.

2.       Increasing social divisiveness and inequity into a system which is already unfair because of the multiple tiers and types of schools created by successive Conservative and Labour governments and thus abandoning our key goal of a high quality education system for all learners.

3.       Depressing educational outcomes for pupils in general.

4.       Increasing the existing complexity of school admissions and exclusions.

5.       Putting at risk advances made in making appropriate provision for children with special needs.

6.       Putting in jeopardy the programme of improving school buildings.

7.       Wasting precious resources, both human and material, at a time when all efforts should be focused on improving educational outcomes by enabling effective teaching and learning to take place in good local schools accessible to all.

Point 6 is particularly interesting as it indicates that Lib Dem members want to ditch the ‘Free Schools’ policy and revert back to a scheme similar to Labour’s Building Schools for the Future programme.

However, Sarah Teather responded “I will take into account what they say but it is not going to change government policy, because Government policy is formed by Government ministers,” Potentially rendering the whole episode entirely useless in terms of delivering change.

Meanwhile, out on the doorstep, resentment was strife among residents who had voted for Sarah Teather in May 2010. A former Labour supporter who voted for Teather said “I’m quite distraught because what I voted for was totally the opposite to what I got. I didn’t vote for a Tory Government basically and I will definitely be voting Labour next time.”

I imagine many who voted for a Lib Dem MP across the country will be doing the same.

Advertisements

Cllr Mary Arnold – Lib Dem / Tory Coalition Deprives Brent’s Schools of £380 million

The Coalition Government’s recent announcements cancelling Building Schools for the Future capital programmes has deprived Brent schools of  £80m funding allocated last January to rebuild, remodel and expand four secondary schools initially and a further £300m for the remaining secondaries.

This is an enormous setback for the children, teachers and indeed communities who have invested in the plans, been inspired and had their expectations raised by the promise of a 21st century learning environment. And judging by the stories emerging at the recent rally of parents, schoolchildren and unions to lobby MPs at Westminster, this is the tip of the iceberg across the country. It means that children will be taught in buildings not fit for purpose and in larger classes as there will not be enough school places for Brent’s children, as a result.

Over the last 13 years, Labour invested in Brent’s schools, year-on-year, producing higher standards with results above the national average and narrowing the achievement gap. Fewer schools have been in special measures and more children have stayed in education or training including apprenticeships. But instead of building on success, the Lib Dem/Tory government has put all this is at stake with no alternatives for capital investment as it rushes through the Academies Bill inviting schools to opt out of local authority control.

This coalition government option is initially for ‘outstanding’ schools in contrast to the original model, meaning that schools already doing well could opt to attract additional funds from local authority central services leaving less to support Brent’s family of schools. These new ‘academies’ would not be accountable to the local authority (and taxpayer) and there is concern whether their admissions criteria would be subject to its approval. As the school year ends in a policy vacuum, it is important to thank teachers in recognition of their enormous contribution and to collaborate in the interests of all Brent’s children in the future.

Cllr Mary Arnold

Labour Councillor for Kilburn Ward and

Lead Member for Children and Families

Government Savages School places in Brent

Conservative Education Minister, Michael Gove, supported by his junior minister, Sarah Teather, MP for Brent Central, has withdrawn £80 million worth of funding for Brent schools under the ‘Building Schools for the Future’ (BSF) programme. The decision forms part of the Liberal Democrats ‘savage cuts’ agenda announced by Nick Clegg at last year’s Lib Dem conference and being implemented by the Con Dem coalition Government.

Brent has a rising school population and a shortage of school places at both primary and secondary stages. Seven of the borough’s secondary schools are in very poor condition, not fit for purpose and require urgent replacement. The first phase of the BSF funding was to cover the rebuilding and expansion of Copland Community School, Cardinal Hinsley Catholic College, Queen’s Park Community School and Alperton Community School.

In addition, the rebuilding of the Crest Academies is also ‘under review’. The Ark Academy is not affected by the cuts.

The Government’s decision means that Brent will not be able to meet the demand for new school places.

The Leader of Brent Council, Councillor Ann John, OBE, has condemned the Government’s action, which, she says, is driven by outdated right wing ideology. Cllr John said:

“This decision means that the future prospects of Brent’s school students are being sacrificed on the altar of an outdated right wing ideology which dictates that debt must be repaid over the shortest possible period irrespective of the damage to public services and to the economy. Moreover, scrapping capital projects like this damage the economy and increases the prospect of a ‘double dip’ recession. Any recovery will be led by growth in the construction industry and this is bad news for them as well”.

The Lead Member for Children & Families, Cllr Mary Arnold, added:

“This cut will lead to overcrowding, larger class sizes and a return to the days when Brent kids were taught in corridors rather than in class rooms. The government are creating slum schools of the future”.

What a last few days it has been

It was a horrible morning as we learnt the result of the Brent Central Parliamentary vote. We were absolutely distraught at losing such an inspiring MP in Dawn. Barry Gardiner and Glenda Jackson’s result did soften the blow as Hampstead and Kilburn elected Glenda, and Brent North elected Barry.

Yesterday at 4PM the Council results for Dudden Hill Ward was announced. It was the second result announced after the Willesden Green Ward announcement where there was no change from 2006. At the Dudden Hill Count table, the Labour pile looked marginally bigger than the Lib Dem stack.

Before they’re announced, the Candidates and our Agents already know the results. We were called behind the count table to look at the ballot papers that were sorted into the pile where the ballots were disputable.

I looked at the results sheets… I was ahead of two of my Lib Dem opponents! After we had all agreed where the disputed papers should go, the result was finalised. I had got in by 50 votes.

But the day wasn’t over. As the results were announced Ward by Ward, we were making gains all across Brent. The final result was astonishing. Brent Labour now have 40 Councillors in Brent to 17 Lib Dems and 6 Conservatives.

Commiserations to all my fellow Dudden Hill candidates of all parties who were unsuccessful on this occasion and congratulations to Aslam Choudry and David Clues for also being elected as Dudden Hill Councillors.  This has been a hard fought campaign and many had no sleep for two days. The actual campaign was exhausting. I’m sure all candidates are sporting a ‘campaign calf’ from being on their feet constantly, knocking on doors, talking to people, canvassing for support.

Lastly, thank you for all your support, to every voter, to every leaflet deliverer, to every donater, to my fellow candidates, to the A-Team, to Dawn & her team, to volunteers, everyone else that helped and to you.

I look forward to the challenges that the next four years will bring – and I look forward to serving Dudden Hill and Brent.

Lib Dem Broken Promises: Council Tax

Council Tax will not rise in Brent this election year.

However, lets rewind to 2006. Prior to the local elections, the Brent Liberal Democrats promised to freeze Council Tax. This has not been the case. Band D Council Tax in Brent has for example risen by more than £100.

When it came to their first budget, they raised Council Tax by 4.9%. Since then, they have had two budgets,  and have put Council Tax up on both occasions. In fact, during their three years of office since 2006, they have put the Council Tax up by more than the amount the previous Labour Administration did during its last three years.

This Lib Dem administration must be held accountable.

Lib Dem Broken Promise: Dollis Hill House

Dollis Hill House is historically significant building in Brent, and is within Gladstone Park. You may have heard of Chequers, which is the official country residence of the UK Prime Minister. Well, Prime Minister William Gladstone (you may recognise the name from the primary school on Sherrick Green Road), used Dollis Hill House as his country home, and the House was the Chequers of that time.

The House has been subject to multiple arson attacks and a campaign snowballed to save the House.

The Brent Lib Dems promised to save Dollis Hill House. Instead the Council took the easy option and chose to seek to demolish the house, rather than working with English Heritage to find a better solution. Thankfully, and after successful campaigning from the Dollis Hill Residents’ Association, the heritage came through for the House and and after clarity that the Council had not worked hard enough to seek alternative solutions to demolition, the plans to demolish the House have thus far failed.

Another disappointing twist in this saga is that Ken Livingstone is no longer Mayor of London. As Mayor, he pledged financial support to rebuild Dollis Hill House and commitment from Boris Johnson has not been forthcoming.

So Dollis Hill House is another reason to Bring Labour Back on May 6th.

Brent Labour Manifesto for 2010 Local Elections

Key Pledges

After the Local Elections a Labour Council will: –

  • Repeal the £25 charge for bulky refuse collection.
  • Keep Council Tax levels at or below the London average and introduce a discount for those over 75 who are eligible
  • Introduce free parking for the first hour in council car parks to encourage local shopping for local people.
  • Rebuild our secondary schools and ensure that school facilities are fully available to the wider community, especially young people
  • Crack down on crime and anti social behavior
  • Introduce a Green Charter in consultation with local residents and other stakeholders.

Other high priorities for an incoming Labour Council will be: –

  • Introducing 20 mph speed restrictions in areas where residents’ want them.
  • Introducing fairer care charges for elderly and disabled people.
  • Making Brent a Fairtrade borough.
  • Provide a multi use games area in every suitable open space.
  • Provide a safer environment for our young people.
  • Work with other local authorities and central government to change legislation to allow the Council to restrict the growth of betting shops in town centres and fast food outlets near schools.

What are the Lib Dems doing in Brent?

Following on from this weekends campaigning in Dudden Hill, I spoke to a resident on Cobbold Road, who said that they will be supporting the Lib Dems at the next elections because they liked what they were saying. But I didn’t leave it there. I asked what is it about them you like? Are there any particular policies that they will be introducing in Brent that he identified with? To which he had no answer.

He even later admitted that maybe he had been sucked in by the negative campaigning from the Lib Dems as he could only recollect personal attacks on Gordon Brown and Dawn Butler from their leaflets – but not anything about what they were doing. If people vote for the Lib Dems on May 6th, does anyone know what they will be voting for?