Inverclyde Council (Education)

Question Time — Scottish Executive – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 22nd January 2004.

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Photo of Duncan McNeil Duncan McNeil Labour 2:30 pm, 22nd January 2004

To ask the Scottish Executive what its response is to Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education's follow-up inspection report on Inverclyde Council. (S2O-1102)

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour

We expect councils to take HMIE reports very seriously and to act on their recommendations, but it is for the council to take appropriate action.

Photo of Duncan McNeil Duncan McNeil Labour

The minister will be aware that the inspector's damning report slates Inverclyde Council for scrapping an £80 million school building programme, which would have got all local children out of their crumbling classrooms. I hear what the minister says about the council's responsibility, but how much longer will Inverclyde Council be allowed to prevent the Executive from fulfilling its partnership agreement promise to deliver the largest-ever school building programme in Scotland's history?

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour

As Mr McNeil points out, the report was very critical and I have said that I expect the council to take it very seriously indeed. One of the issues raised by the inspector was the need to make it clear that action is required quickly. I understand that, yesterday, Inverclyde Council was making certain decisions on the future of its school estate, which will be the basis for proposals that I hope to receive very soon. We shall examine those proposals to ensure that they contribute to the objectives that have been set out by the partnership parties of overhauling the school estate across the whole of Scotland and of securing value for money in doing so. In due course, the HMIE will follow up the most recent report to ensure that progress is being made.

Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat

The minister will be aware that a new Liberal Democrat administration was elected in Inverclyde only last May. Does he recognise that that administration, with its substantial majority, has a mandate for change? Will he assure me that the Inverclyde administration's current and much-improved proposals will be considered on their merits by ministers? Does he agree that the constant whingeing on the topic by my good friend Duncan McNeil just highlights the unfortunate legacy of the previous administration in Inverclyde, which is no doubt why it is no longer in office there?

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour

I am grateful for Mr Brown's question. The Executive will clearly consider any proposals that are made on their merits against our objective of making the biggest overhaul of our school estate that we can. Ultimately, it is for local people in Inverclyde to decide whether they think that the proposals are better or worse than the previous ones.