Cross-party council support for school funding campaigners

Councillors from across the political spectrum have backed Labour motions at district and county lev

Councillors from across the political spectrum have backed Labour motions at district and county level, challenging the government on school funding policy. - Credit: Archant

Campaigners calling for the government to think again on education funding have won cross-party backing from both district and county councillors.

After a debate across party lines on Tuesday, the Conservative majority on Herts County Council backed a Labour motion calling for urgent action to improve funding for schools as a real-terms squeeze deepens.

Then, last night, the Conservative-run North Herts District Council unanimously backed another Labour motion under which it will relay the concerns of parents and teachers to the government.

Both motions were passed following campaigning from the Hitchin Parents Against School Cuts initiative, whose co-founder Kay Tart addressed the district council meeting in Letchworth – telling of teachers having to pay for glue out of their own pockets.

The Hitchin parents’ campaign was also mentioned during the debate at County Hall in Hertford, which ended with the Tories U-turning and backing the motion proposed by the Labour group leader Judi Billing – who represents Hitchin North.

Under the motion, the county council’s cabinet members for children and education, councillors Teresa Heritage and Terry Douris, are to make urgent representations to the education secretary Damian Hinds and schools minister Nick Gibb.

Ms Billing told this paper afterwards: “I’m delighted that the Conservatives decided to withdraw their own, watered-down amendment and accept our motion on schools funding.

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“Our children deserve better than continued austerity depriving them of a good education, and it’s only right the county council as a whole speaks out on that. The concerned voices of parents, teachers and students must be heard.”

North Herts District Council leader Lynda Needham said her Conservative administration would happily support the motion proposed by Labour councillor Helen Oliver – with Mrs Needham saying this was “for our children, the people who will be coming after us”.

Ms Oliver, who represents Letchworth Grange, said after the meeting: “As schools are struggling with a funding crisis, it’s our children who are suffering and it’s vital the government listens to what parents and headteachers are telling them.

“I’m pleased the council voted to support our motion, so that we can help them send their message loud and clear.”

Mrs Needham said: “Although some Conservative councillors were puzzled by the reference to parents emailing all councillors with their concerns – as some did not receive such an email – and district councils have no control over school budgets, which are the province of the county council, all Conservative councillors are very concerned to ensure that our children have a good education.

“They are the future, and Conservatives were more than happy to support the motion.”

She added that she, as leader of the council, would be writing to the education secretary to express “the concerns of all councillors about the position schools now find themselves in while trying to stretch budgets”.

Ms Tart said the Hitchin Parents Against School Cuts campaign was “absolutely delighted” with the results at the district and county council meetings.

“Seeing the councillors vote unanimously to back our campaign and to raise our concerns with MPs and the Department for Education means that our message is being heard and our concerns are being taken seriously,” she said.

“We have had a fantastic start to our campaign. Support from members of our action group and from members of the community has been overwhelming, and the depth of feeling from these groups has been massively encouraging.

“We will continue to work hard to ensure that the government pay attention to what is actually happening in schools, and don’t keep on rolling out the same old rhetoric that there has never been more funding in education. This is completely true, but that doesn’t mean that it is sufficient funding.

“While these small successes are to be celebrated what we want to see is proper action from the government to reverse the state education funding crisis.”

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