Argyll and Bute Council has agreed to defer making a decision on the future of its school estate until 25 November.
The council’s executive was asked today to give the go-ahead to start consulting on proposals to reduce the number of primary schools from 80 to 54, amalgamating 26 schools into 20 receiving schools. However, the executive considered requests from council members who wanted more time to consider the full proposals and agreed to wait until 25 November before making a decision on consultation.
Councillor Dick Walsh, leader of the council, announced the deferred decision:
“There have been a number of questions that elected members have raised with me regarding the papers today which I wish to seek clarification on. I am also aware that questions have been raised by parents and parent bodies and these will also be looked at. We wish to ensure the process is followed correctly and everyone has sufficient, accurate information to base their comments on if a consultation follows.
“In light of this I propose that we continue consideration of the papers relating to the school estate proposals until the meeting on 25 November.”
The council has received a lot of feedback and comment already on the proposals. People have asked for more information that will allow them to respond more fully to the consultation.
Douglas Hendry, executive director, customer services, believes the decision reinforces the council’s democratic processes.
“Papers submitted to the executive were draft proposals, and today’s meeting asked for permission to start consultation. The executive has reacted to feedback from the entire council. They in turn have raised questions posed by constituents who have read the draft proposals. Councillors have requested more time to consider the proposals and have asked for some points to be clarified. Council officers will carry out more work on the papers and they will be considered again on 25 November.
“Our committee systems are designed to allow proposals to be challenged and this is a good example of where our processes have worked. I hope this also shows that the council listens to the feedback we receive, whether it’s during formal consultation or in our day to day business, and we react accordingly. Formal consultation on these proposals hasn’t started yet but we’re already listening.”
The council will now be asked to consider the proposals again at a meeting on November 25.
· Argyll and Bute Council has to reduce its budget by between £9m and £13m each year, for the next three years.
· The education budget needs to be reduced by £12m (15%) over the next three years.
· Argyll and Bute Council currently operates 80 primary schools, 10 secondary schools and one learning centre.
· 59% of primary schools have an occupancy of less than half, which compares unfavourably with the national average of 20%.
· The schools have rolls ranging from 5 to 1400.
· The cost of educating a pupil in schools in Argyll and Bute ranges from £3,000 per pupil to in excess of £30,000 per pupil.
· Last week the council released draft papers which proposed amalgamating 46 primary schools into 20. The executive committee was asked to give permission for formal consultation to start on these proposals at its meeting held today (November 2 2010)