Lib Dems Renew Calls for Pause in School Closure Programme

The Welsh Liberal Democrat Group on Powys County Council has today tabled a Motion to be debated at the County Council meeting on 3rd March requesting the Council’s Cabinet to delay implementation of current school closure decisions for one year to allow time for a comprehensive review of the assumptions underpinning the schools transformation programme.

The Group, currently the largest party group on the council, is concerned that the entire consultation process on the transformation strategy was undertaken prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and may be based on outdated assumptions about how closely individual schools are working together within a cluster.

“We are not today judging the decisions that the Cabinet has made,” commented Welsh Liberal Democrat Group Leader and Leader of the Opposition, Cllr James Gibson-Watt (Glasbury). “But as anyone who has undertaken a major business overhaul knows if there are major changes to your market conditions mid-process then you pause and re-evaluate before moving forward. In our mind the pandemic has been just such a change.”

Cllr Jake Berriman (Llandrinodod North) continued:

“In the recent scrutiny review of the pandemic response, we were told that there had been major improvements to cluster working and that schools were now actively self-supporting. During the scrutiny of the draft 2022/23 Budget, we have been told that external support to schools is now needed at a much-reduced level. Then in a recent Council Members’ briefing, the Head of a newly-created all-through school in Powys stated his main regret was that all the primaries in the cluster had not been included in the ‘merger’. These are major changes to the ways our schools operate but the idea of an all though cluster school on multiple sites was not considered in any of the current processes.”

“That is why we are bringing this Motion forward. The current Cabinet is on course to expose the new Cabinet to be formed after the May elections to two costly Judicial Reviews and it is our duty as a responsible Opposition to protect the public purse if we believe the Council is going down an inappropriate route. Other members may or may not agree but it is vital that as this is a decision of generational significance at the very least alternative voices and views should be aired and debated.”

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