Thursday, 11 July 2013

Hands off our school!

I try to avoid doing anything akin to politics on this blog because it's supposed to be light hearted (I do hope you've noticed).  But I intend to suspend that rule tonight, as I've discovered two jokers who I thought you might appreciate hearing about.

Jamie's school - Guiseley Infants - is under a touch of misguided pressure at the moment as we near the end of a Leeds City Council consultation to expand it and nearby St Oswald's Junior school, converting them into separate primaries.

There is a growing problem with school places in Guiseley, and that problem will only worsen as more houses are built.  The obvious and most sensible long-term solution is a brand new school.

Failing that, yes, both Guiseley Infants and St Oswald's will have to consider how they might accommodate more pupils - at least in the short-term.  But so too - one might reasonably expect - should Tranmere Park, Guiseley's other school for primary age pupils.

The only problem is, Tranmere is located at the posher end of Guiseley and, when asked to take a very limited number of pupils in a recent consultation exercise, agreement could not be found.

The revised idea is therefore that Tranmere is protected from change, and Guiseley Infants loses its playing field, its quadrangle and gains 150 new young souls.  Great.

Since the enormity - not to mention the unfairness and impracticality - of this scenario became so stark over recent weeks, some very fine parents of Guiseley Infants' pupils got together to form the Guiseley Infant and Nursery (GINS) Action Group.  And the mummies and daddies have done good. 

Over 3000 leaflets have been hand-delivered to encourage concerned residents and parents to contribute to the council's consultation.  There has been coverage in the newspapers and on local TV.  And the key campaign messages has been powerfully conveyed to politicians.

Encouragingly, almost all of the politicians have indicated at least a willingness to listen.

And then there's Cllrs Graham and Pat Latty.

Entering the fray very much from stage right, they have given a masterclass of quite heroic proportions on how not to represent the interests of local people who, it would appear, seem little more than an irritation to them. 

In today's Wharfedale Observer, they jointly urged GINS group supporters to allow the consultation period (which ends tomorrow) to run its course "so that the views of as many people as possible could be assessed."  The more cynical observer might interpret this as "so we can encourage our posh supporters at the other end of town to respond saying that Guiseley Infants' playing field should indeed be concreted over, and Tranmere left alone."  But maybe that's just me (and almost everyone else). Cllr Mr Latty criticised GINS for being "vociferous."  And Cllr Mrs Latty criticised parents for "thinking of their own children - which is natural - but it is getting a bit out of hand."  I kid you not.

But Cllr Mr Latty wasn't finished there.  Hell no.

In correspondence addressed to "Concerned Parents" (i.e. GINS supporters), he said he found it  "decidedly irregular to be asked to account to a body that does not reveal the names of the people involved." OK, well now you know my name - there's a starter.  And Jamie's mum's called Vanessa.  I have little doubt that most if not all other supporters will also happily "reveal" themselves to you.  (It could be like a big Guiseley version of Blind Date).

Cllr Mr Latty added: "What I would remind you of is that there is an ongoing consultation on the proposals for Oxford Road and St Oswald's and that will take it’s (sic) course whatever we may say."  Yes folks, localism in action, Latty style i.e. "you're wasting your time and, much more importantly, you're wasting my and Cllr Mrs Latty's time."   

Concluding by saying that he and Cllr Mrs Latty would "do our best" to accommodate a meeting with some GINS members, he finished with this immortal sentence: "Please do not suggest a public meeting."

Well, I mean, he doesn't know where we've been.

Methinks Cllr Mr and Cllr Mrs Latty have made a massive Mr & Mrs political error of judgement, particularly given that Cllr Mrs Latty is up for re-election next year.  But then, what would I know about politics?