No debate over Oxenwood and Braeside's' future, just over whether the 'call in' was correct
'Let's debate whether we can debate a decision we've made'. This was the thrust of a two hour public debate with the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee of Wiltshire Council at County Hall, Trowbridge today (April 10) which ended with councillors rejecting a ‘call-in’ by a vote of eight to five. 'We've decided we can't (won't?)' was their decision.
The rejection of the ‘call-in’ means that there will be no further debate; Braeside and Oxenwood will close at the end of August 2018.
CouncillorJon Hubbard and the nine other councillors supporting the ‘call-in’ said the decision of closure of the centres did not follow correct procedures and that the “openness and fairness of the process was left wanting. Users and stakeholders were excluded from the decision making process.”
These points were supported at the debate by, among others, Devizes Town Councillor, Judy Rose, David Borrie, Chair of the managers at Braeside and Lucy Gomes, whose petition against the closure of the centres now has over 14,000 signatures.
Councillor Stewart Dobson, speaking in favour of a ‘call-in’ appealed for more time and said that, “Public perception is that the decision happened very quickly.”
In response, Laura Mayes cabinet member for children, explained that the decision to close the centres had been a difficult one to make. The process had taken eighteen months and had involved visiting the centres and informing staff that a review was taking place. Presentations were also given to primary and secondary headteachers’ associations. The criticism that the final decision had been made at a closed session of the council was, she said, to protect those who would lose their jobs as a result of the closures and who needed to be informed before the decision was made public.
Laura Mayes stated that the cost of repairs and upgrading the centres for a non-statutory provision was too much for the council to fund. The priority had to be to fund enough school places for all children in the county, to protect the most vulnerable children and to tackle performance in schools.
Closure of the centres, according to Laura Mayes, “will not have a detrimental effect on Wiltshire’s children as many other people are providing these experiences and already 70% of Wiltshire schools use alternative services. We know what our priorities are. This is not a priority for Wiltshire.”
Some 14,000 Wiltshire people would not agree with her.