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Anthony Sutcliffe
Posted on 2 Jun 2007 12:46 pm

I used to live in Somerset and I have crossed swords with Cllr Bakewell on a couple of occasions.

I was a school governor for some years at a large Junior school. In the late 90's, we were told that the council thought it appropriate to merge us with the infant school to create an "all-through" primary of over 800 pupils 5 - 11 years old. This would have made the school one of the 10 largest in the country, despite only being in a town of around 45,000. The plans were not fully costed out, the consultation consisted of telling us what they wanted to do without really providing a valid reason for the project and a number of documents related to the affair was either mislaid or removed from the public domain to try to force the plans through. The project failed and we were never told the final cost although estimates put it around £0.75 million.

A few years later they tried a similar project involving most of the schools in the area (from memory, 15 of them). The consultation was at best poor, and involved no more than a handful of people. The project would have had a serious impact on the local economy, the transport system (which was and still is totally unable to handle the changes) and without any real justification in terms of improving the childrens education. Again the project failed having spent funds estimated over £2 million.

It may sound bizarre that they cannot state what thse projects cost; their excuse was that they do not specifically account for these things separately and they are part of the normal education budget. I note that the year before I left the area, over 40% of the schools were running on a deficit budget.

On this basis, I would agree with Ian Liddell-Granger that the current county administration is far from suitable for forming a single unitary authority; I dread to think what they would do if given the sole control of the county.

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