Labour expressed concern over two key Tory policies at last week’s council meeting and drew attention to cuts in provision for single homeless people.
In the housing debate Tony Belton, Leonie Cooper and Peter Carpenter raised their concerns about the Government’s plans to move Council tenants to fixed-term tenancies, arguing that it would have little impact on the supply of affordable rented housing and would increase the ghettoization of council estates by potentially forcing out those who were working.
In the debate on Supporting People, Rex Osborn and Billi Randall challenged the Tories on cuts of £454,000, affecting up to 750 vulnerable people. Rex Osborn felt that there had not been proper consultation with all the organisations and the proposals lacked transparency in deciding which organisations would get their funding cut.
On Academies and Free Schools, Wendy speck and Ben Johnson welcomed the setting up of a review panel to vet potential sponsors and providers, but argued that the Tories were inflexible in their approach because they did not see a role for good Education Authorities like Wandsworth to open schools. Paradoxically, the need for this committee suggested that the Council foresaw problems with the Government’s haphazard approach to providing new school places and exposed divisions in the Tory ranks.
Video of the debates can be seen here:
Labour’s position on Free Schools
1. We have shown in government that we welcome innovation and greater involvement from outside organisations in schools. The free schools policy is not the best way to achieve this, but of course we remain supportive of those organisations who want to be more involved in our education system and bring innovation to it just as we were with academies and trust schools.
2. We’re worried that the government’s free school policy is a distraction from the vital task of improving the vast majority of schools and, as people know, we have major concerns about parts of this policy, including:
• The schools are being funded by money taken from other schools
• There is no account of how the schools will be joined up with other local schools and services. We don’t want a free-for-all undermining other schools
• There are clearly concerns that schools might be able to open without meeting basic minimum standards like having a play ground That’s why we don’t support the Government’s free schools policy and why we have always been clear that this is not the way that we would have gone about things if we were in government now.
3. We say that where schools that are established under the current government are successful, delivering for their pupils and communities, it is right that they continue. Labour wants to see good schools that extend opportunities, particularly in deprived areas, drive up standards in their localities, and close the attainment gap between children from rich and poor backgrounds. That is the basis on which we will assess the Government’s Free Schools policy and determine where changes are needed.