6:30pm Monday 1st April 2013
By David Wiles
OLD TOWN councillor Nadine Watts says she and some of her constituents are disappointed with the outcome of the Croft School review.
Following calls from opposition groups, an independent review, chaired by businessman Keith Carby, was set up into procedures for opening and closing schools, focusing as examples on Croft School and Northview Primary School, in Highworth.
The group, set up by Swindon Council’s children and young people’s overview and scrutiny committee, concluded the council did not fail to follow the statutory process, or attempt to mislead, but at times its consultation was ‘at best confused’. The outcome of the review was discussed by the committee last week.
Coun Watts (Lab, Old Town), a committee member, said after the meeting: “The authors of the report have done the best they can with the narrow remit they were given.
However, this report hasn’t looked at whether the Croft site was most appropriate for a school places demand that predominantly came from the town centre area and it doesn’t explain why an opaque steering group made up of just Conservative councillors decided where the school should go.”
The review found that Croft residents lost faith in the integrity and transparency of the process, because Cabinet had clearly decided to build the school at Croft in June 2010.
But the council then started a statutory consultation and asked questions which made residents feel they were still in the process of deciding the best location.
When the review was published in March, Coun David Renard, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “I think there’s maybe something around the type of questions we ask when we go out to consultation and being a bit clearer about what is and isn’t being consulted on.
“But otherwise, in every other respect, this report, as indeed all of the others, has vindicated the council in terms of its process and choice of site and answering all the questions being asked.”
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