Can't understand why some Powys Councillors have been so naggy. When I was a Councillor, nothing I liked more than a bit of tension in the chamber. And there was a bit of real spice in Llandrindod Wells today. I suppose they're not used to the public taking a really close interest in what they're doing - and giving voice before an official invitation to do so. Today's 'Emergency Debate' happened only because 11 County Councillors had written in to demand it. The motion before Councillors proposed the scrapping of the four options for reorganising secondary education which are contained in a 'leaked' report, which had been prepared by an officer working group. The options include proposals to close three high schools in Montgomeryshire and establish a sixth form college. The chamber was full of interested observers, including me.
The session began with what seemed some bizarre legal advice (from he who gives it) about what constitutes an interest. Sounded more like advice to say nothing of any interest to anyone. And then it was Jeremy Patterson, Chief Executive, with what seemed to me a none too subtle pitch to reject the motion. What followed was a very good debate, with good contributions from all sides, except for one rather offensive contribution from a Powys Independent - which prompted a poke in the eye from an outraged Russell George. Fully deserved in my opinion.
Debate was good - but odd. Almost everyone's speech was in full agreement with the arguments put forward by Conservative Councillor, Aled Davies. Almost all of the Conservative Councillors spoke up well. And then Councillor David Jones put froward his amendment which was effectively to go back to square one, establishing a new working group (to include councillors) to come forward with a new report, containing a variety of options. Difference between Aled and David was that the latter did not want to rule out anything until the costs were all known. Aled wanted to rule out closures and the end of sixth forms now. I'd have preferred Aled's motion - but David's amendment was not unreasonable. Must admit that the outcome was along the lines I'd expected.
For the last few days I've been trying to manage expectation amongst the concerned public, leading up to today's debate. For the next few days, it will be managing disappointment. I want to reassure people that today was a good result - as good as could have been expected. None of the Councillors can now be in any doubt about how we, the people of Montgomeryshire feel about suggestions that they should take away our secondary schools, or their sixth forms. We know that most of those who spoke today agree with us. And we are rid of the officer-dominated Steering Group which came up with the 'bonkers' report in the first place. All we have to do is make sure that the fire is kept on smoulder until its time to turn the bellows on again- and consume any proposals to wreck our education system in a mighty conflagration. I was really proud of the Conservative Group. They fight for their people, and they're just not willing to be pushed around by anyone.