Will Wirral Council’s Cabinet decide to close Lyndale School on the 31st August 2016?
One of the things I’ve mulled over the past few days are the papers published for the special Cabinet meeting on Thursday 17th December. Due to the volume of paperwork to do with this item, this small piece can’t do justice to the matter so I suggest you read the paperwork for that agenda item on Wirral Council’s website in full.
Sadly for Tranmere Rover’s fans (issues to do with the training ground are agenda item 4) it is agenda item 3 (Report Detailing the Outcome of the Representation Period about the Proposed Closure of The Lyndale School) and its six appendices that is the subject of this piece.
The whole matter is also connected to this Freedom of Information Act request I made on the 20th November 2014 for the consultation responses (refused yesterday on s.21 grounds as redacted consultation responses (99 A4 pages of them) were published as part of the Cabinet papers here).
I will probably request an internal review of the Freedom of Information Act request later today as Wirral Council (due to the redactions) have not supplied me with the consultation responses as much information is missing and they haven’t given a reason under the Freedom of Information Act legislation as to why.
I also have put in a request for a question to Cllr Tony Smith at next Monday’s Council meeting (to which I’ll get a supplementary question), the question (that I emailed in on the 4th December 2014) is this:
This is my question for the Council meeting on the 15th December 2014 to Cllr Tony Smith (Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services).
Wirral Council recently had a four-week consultation on the closure of the Lyndale School in Eastham and there will be a special Cabinet meeting later this month on the 17th December 2014.
Can you please answer:
(a) how many responses were received by Wirral Council to the latest four-week consultation on closure of the Lyndale School,
(b) whether the text of the responses to the latest four-week consultation will be published in full (rather than a summary in a Cabinet report) and if so when,
(c) whether all Cabinet Members making a decision on the 17th December 2014 will in advance of making a decision at the meeting of the 17th December 2014 have read all the written consultation responses to the four-week consultation on closure prior to making their decision on the 17th December 2014
(d) whether all Cabinet Members making a decision on the 17th December 2014 will in advance of making a decision at the meeting of the 17th December 2014 have read the statutory guidance for decision makers on this matter issued earlier this year by the government which is available online?
Obviously parts (a) and (b) have been answered by the Cabinet papers being published. Hopefully in answer to (c) he will give the answer that he and the other Cabinet Members will find the time between now and the Cabinet meeting on Thursday evening to read the 99 pages of consultation responses and in answer to (d) the 76 pages of statutory guidance.
The current recommendation from officers is that the school is not closed on the 31st December 2015, but is closed on the 31st August 2016 instead.
There are many matters I could write here about the decision to be made, however I will make these points. If I remember correctly Wirral Council’s constitution in Article 13 (principles of decision-making) specifically Article 13.2 states that when reaching decisions councillors (bear in mind Council here also means decisions made by Wirral Council’s Cabinet) that:
“All decisions of the Council will be made in accordance with the following principles:
(a) proportionality (i.e. the action must be proportionate to the desired outcome);
(b) due consultation and the consideration of professional advice from officers;
(c) respect for human rights;
(d) a presumption in favour of openness;
(e) clarity of aims and desired outcomes; and
(f) Wednesbury reasonableness (i.e. the decision must not be so unreasonable that no reasonable Council could have reached it, having taken into account all relevant considerations, and having ignored irrelevant considerations). ”
Some interesting points I wish to make here, only the professional advice from officers needs to be considered. If officers are for example giving amateurish (not professional) advice or have flat out got things wrong it doesn’t need to be factored into the decision.
The consultation responses have been redacted heavily but the advice of officers hasn’t.
What are the clear aims of closing down the Lyndale School (on whatever date)?
Bearing in mind they have a legal duty, that is they must pay regard to the statutory guidance at all stages of the decision-making process on closing the school (for example at the earlier Cabinet meetings, the Council meeting, the Coordinating Committee meetings) as the statutory guidance (published in January 2014 and presumably there was earlier guidance before this) hasn’t been included on the agenda until now can that actually be proved for the earlier decisions that led to this?
Have all the human rights considerations been properly considered? There are matters beyond what I’ve written here that I may bring up in my supplementary question on Monday evening.
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