Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Fife Council - Pick a School - but only the one we allow....

Mike Scott-Hayward, UKIP councillor, has declared that Fife Council is now seen BY MANY MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC as being guilty of using guesswork to determine public opinion, and technological flannel to circumvent consultation.

"The councillors on the Education Committee should avoid the mistakes made by the Policy Finance and Asset Management Committee (PFAM) when deciding the future of secondary education in North East Fife. PFAM rejected a proposal to have a referendum of parents and locals to assess whether or not full reliance should fall on a single new, and therefore large, secondary on a site in St Andrews, or two smaller schools - one for St Andrews and the other for the Tay Bridgehead.

"The view in support of two schools has been quoted in local newspapers, but mention of that is ruled out, almost forbidden, by the parties in power; one of which was elected on the promise of two schools. Labour opposition also stands against a Bridgehead school.

"The rejection of asking the people, whom we trust to elect governments, means we are now either in the hands of the unelected wielding complex matrixes, the tick box approach, or in the hands of ad hoc groups pushing single views. I applaud the effort of those who have raised a petition of over 2000 names but note that sadly, those signing were offered only one choice to support.

"Others have raised the very valid point that one option, South Street, is ruled out simply because the size of school serving the whole area won't fit there, and on transportation grounds, too many busses: a two school option would allow that choice to be on the table and also cut bussing - now a seemingly also banned topic.

"No one now knows what level of support there is in reality for two schools; nor does anyone really know the level of support for each possible site in St Andrews. We would do, though, had PFAM not chucked out the idea of a referendum, which the Conservatives and I had proposed. This way, the Council's way, means we will all still be in the dark. The lid will not go back on this can of worms by these means. Do the public even know that they could have had a referendum?"

Cllr Scott-Hayward was also critical of the consultation with parents. "The first meeting of the so called working group, decided that the impact of public opinion had to be a criteria in the magic matrix, the table to be used to assess options. I asked if the assessing group would include parents or public and was soundly told that the assessment was a matter for the experts! At the meeting of Fife Council, I asked how officers would determine 'public opinion' and the Leader of the Administration told me that there are officers who are well versed in assessing public reactions. Yet at the meeting informing parents of the result of the deliberations, the first point made by officers was that they had decided to merge that criteria with others as they found it too difficult to assess and so public views will only be able to made as part of the planning application process. That, of course, is post decision.

"It's a mess"