In January 2006 the County Council identified that there was a significant problem with education results, particularly in northern and western areas. The council’s Cabinet approved a policy development panel that eventually led to Schools Organisation Review. SOR proposed structural change for the counties schools, scrapping middle schools across the county. It was approved by the County Council in 2007, but here we are some seven years later and SOR is still going on. This sort of structural change is unsettling for schools and for those schools who are yet to go through SOR, they’ve had seven years of this. Scrapping middle schools was supposed to seriously improve school results. Which begs the question, why hasn’t SCC been pushing it through in a timely fashion, especially given the position our education system is in now?
Labour have proposed a motion of no confidence in the political leadership of Suffolk County Council’s education team after criticism from Ofsted and at least one Tory MP. Sandy Martin says: “The decision to bring a motion of no confidence is not one that is taken lightly, but this issue is so serious and Suffolk’s education system has deteriorated over such a long period that this course of action is needed.” He goes on to add that “This administration has run education into the ground over the last 13 years and this has to stop now.” How that will go down with his colleague, Bryony Rudkin, is unknown. The Tories have only run SCC for the last 9 years. Labour were in charge before that, and Councillor Rudkin was the Leader of the Council.
Cllr Bryony Rudkin, former leader of Suffolk County Council
Lisa Chambers is the latest of three Suffolk Tories to run education since they took back SCC in 2005, so it is entirely unfair to put all the blame for the situation on her shoulders. However she is in charge now, and she needs to inject a little haste into her officers. Every year wasted is an education damaged, and this has economic consequences for the county as well. The main criticism from Ofsted this week wasn’t historic, it was current. The whole Cabinet, the whole Tory group, approved the budget that cut the School Improvement Service. The same service that Ofsted suggests isn’t communicating properly with schools. Councillor Chambers is coming under pressure, and it is never nice when your colleagues start briefing against you. But the Cabinet should remember that all their necks are on the block on this one.
The other controversy has been around the proposal to merge Suffolk’s Police Control room with that of our neighbours to the North, Norfolk Police. For all everyone assumed that it was a done deal – including the Chief Constables of Suffolk and Norfolk – they seem to have underestimated Tim Passmore. As we reported yesterday, Mr Passmore is determined to make a decision based on the best evidence. He recognised that the control room is a front line service, and he insists that he wasn’t elected to send essential services out of the county. He probably went a little beyond his intended script when he accused his Norfolk colleague of wanting to create a “super-Constabulary” by merging Norfolk with Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire and Suffolk. But he was pretty adamant that he wouldn’t want a merger of the Suffolk force. He also recognised that the control room staff are more likely to be lower paid, female and part time. He suggested that maybe some cuts should be made in the higher ups rather than in the lower paid staff – ten years ago Suffolk had one Chief Constable, one Deputy Chief and one Assistant Chief. Now the “Joint Chief Officer Team” is ten strong between Norfolk & Suffolk, with the six above all taking command functions in Suffolk. Maybe they need to cut some of the brass.
Dr Dan Poulter MP has made a rather extraordinary attack on David Ellesmere and the Labour Leadership of the Borough Council. The MP accuses Labour of siting a travellers’ site in his Parliamentary Constituency rather than in the Ipswich Constituency so as to avoid upsetting voters that Mr Ellesmere may need come 2015. This is an overspill of the argument that Mr Ellesmere’s role as Leader of the Council is at odds with his role as Parliamentary Candidate. But while that is a genuine concern, this seems a rather gratuitous attack on the Labour Leader. The Ipswich Local Plan consultation ends on Monday and Mr Ellesmere isn’t able to respond to Dr Poulter’s attack on him until after the various representations have been considered. Planning is supposed to be apolitical, so it is doubly outrageous to accuse Mr Ellesmere of interfering in a planning document like this for political reasons.
Alasdair Ross has been busy making a fool of himself on twitter this week. He spent Tuesday evening tweeting lots of people, demanding answers about Ofsted’s comments. He asked Ipswich Spy why we hadn’t covered the issue on the same day as the Ipswich Star. He asked Borough Councillors, who have no responsibility for education, about their views. And he wanted to know why the six Tory MPs had said nothing. Unfortunately for him, there are seven Tory MPs, and the one he most likes to attack, Ben Gummer MP, was extensively quoted the following day. We ran the story the following day as well. As well as learning to count, he should learn some patience.
Yesterday Ben Gummer MP wrote in his column about “Independence for East Anglia” in an attempt to illustrate why Scottish Independence is not in the best interests of Scotland or the United Kingdom. All in jest, no doubt, but actually it isn’t such a bad idea. The East of England raises £114bn in taxation, but much of that tax is spent in other regions. We’ve traditionally had less funding for our councils and for our essential infrastructure. Nowhere is this more true than Suffolk, which is one of only (I believe) two counties in the country without a motorway. Felixstowe is the busiest container port in the country, yet it is at one end of a dual carriageway and a single track rail link. If we had the level of investment that some other areas have had, we’d be making even more money for the economy. Someone ought to point that out to the Chancellor. Hint hint Mr Gummer.
Today is International Women’s Day and I want to take the opportunity to urge readers to sign a Government e-petition. I try not to bring my partisan politics into this blog, like the other writers, but this isn’t a partisan issue. Female Genital Mutilation is a form of child abuse but I was shocked to discover that more than 66,000 women in this country have suffered from this cruel practice. As Leyla Hussein says in this petition, “The multi-agency guidelines are not statutory, implementation at Local Authority and NHS level is disjointed, funding is minimal, and nobody is monitoring or holding anyone to account.” The Government has to take a lead and get a grip on the situation. Sign the petition here.
“Say what you like about George W. Bush, but he wouldn’t have stood for this aggression by Russia in the Crimea. He’d have invaded New Zealand by now.”
Filed under: Diary Column | Tagged: Alasdair Ross, Ben Gummer MP, Bryony Rudkin, Charlie Hall, David Ellesmere, David Skevington, Donal O'Keeffe, Douglas Paxton, Dr Dan Poulter MP, Gareth Wilson, George Osborne MP, George W Bush, Graham Newman, Lisa Chambers, Michael Gove MP, Ofsted, Patricia O'Brien, Paul Marshall, Sandy Martin, Sarah Hamlin, Saturday Diary, School Improvement Service, School Organisation Review, SOR, Stephen Bett, Tim Passmore | 3 Comments »