Monday 20 January 2014

Schools...and dinners

The Education and Children Scrutiny Committee meets next Thursday (23rd Jan) and will be considering the proposal to delegate school closures to the Executive Board.

You'll remember that this further erosion of democracy was the subject of an embarrassing climbdown for the leader, Kevin Madge, at the last council meeting when he was forced to withdraw the idea when some of his Labour colleagues felt a little uncomfortable with it and proposed that it should go back to scrutiny. This sign of weakness must have greatly displeased his senior unelected officials as well....

After the Plaid amendment that the status quo should remain (all decisions retained by full council) was unfortunately defeated by one vote, the decision to send it back to scrutiny was passed.

So it's now back at scrutiny, where there are five Plaid, four Labour, four Indies and three voting parent governors.

If they all turn up next Thursday and vote the same way they did at full council (two Indies voted for the Plaid amendment), the proposal to delegate to the Executive Board should be defeated by one vote.

However, there are also three parent governors who can vote so we can only hope that as parents they recognise the democratic importance of rejecting the proposal to delegate their children's future to Carmarthenshire's puppet Executive Board.

Of course, that will not be the end of the matter and whatever the outcome of this scrutiny meeting it will then be passed to the Executive Board as a recommendation. It will then, eventually, return to full council. It's just a shame the Plaid amendment was not approved at the last council meeting.

Whilst on the subject of children's services, there's some confusion over the proposed rise in school dinners. Currently they are £2 and the 'suggested' rise is 20p which, according to the council bean counters is 'inflation + 5p'. Unless, unlike the rest of the UK, the rate of inflation is different for Carmarthenshire's schoolchildren and has mysteriously rocketed to around 8%, they've got their sums wrong.

In fact, this anomaly was noticed at the last meeting of this scrutiny committee and officers were challenged. The response was that the proposed rise of 10p per dinner in the 2012 budget was 'not implemented' (ie rejected) and had 'confused' the issue, but also admitted it was 'inconsistent'.
Incidentally, in 2013 primary school dinner prices in Carmarthenshire were the second highest in Wales.

The question is, if a 10p rise is rejected one year, is it particularly ethical to raise it by 20p the following year? It will also equate to roughly an extra £120 per year for a family with three children. 

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