Day 70 – Change for Change’s Sakes

Apologies to the Daily Blog’s morning readership, who enjoy reading these ramblings with “un cafe et un croissant ou deux”…your correspondent has had a lot on recently…a bit like the mayor in fact…

It is worth reflecting that, after 10 weeks of our campaign, we have experienced a journey from zero to 20,000 hits, from no organisation to a large but soft federation of parents, teachers, governors and taxpayers, from silence and therefore implicit agreement to a loud and insistent opposition voice.

We are not professional lobbyists;
we are not aggressive or intimidating; we are creating a noise to represent the normal people of Bedford Borough – the 60-80% or people that agree with us naturally when we stand and hand out leaflets – the people who usually trust professionals to make decisions in the best interests of everyone but are seriously worried by the biased and manipulative consultation process and the empty promises of seamless change and financial security.

There are few ordinary people now unconnected with education that support change. If there were a referendum with both sides allowed to lobby openly, the vote would clearly be for the retention of three-tier.

We can only hope that the decision will now be made by Full Council, where all councillors will have an independent voice, and that those councillors will be allowed to listen to both sides of the argument before casting their votes.

There is no overwhelming evidence for change. It is change for change’s sake; the last throw of the dice by education officials who have run out of ideas. It will result in educational and financial chaos.

Help us stop this. TAKE ACTION now.

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4 Responses to Day 70 – Change for Change’s Sakes

  1. Ed Thomas says:

    After reading William’s blog ‘Can our faith be restored’, I believe it is about time to launch another consultation, titled:
    Is Mayor Branston in a pickle?

    On too many occasions the Mayor has backtracked over recent times, showing a lack of conviction, clear decision making and leadership! My examples are as follows:

    A quote from Frank Branston’s Blog 7/709:

    “More interesting, Nad claimed that I had not attended any of the consultations nor engaged with any parents. Not entirely true. I attended, and answered questions from the public at a well-attended scrutiny meeting and have corresponded with many parents and teachers, mainly three-tier supporters”.

    THE REALITY – A quote from Ben Raza 8/5/09 Luton Today + related websites:
    Lib Dems have called the meeting of Bedford borough council’s scrutiny committee after Mayor Frank Branston launched a public consultation last week into restructuring the local schools system.

    Mr. Mayor, the only reason why you attended this meeting was because you were forced to by the Lib Dems to stand to account.

    A quote from Frank Branston’s Blog 7/7/09
    “I do intend that before the council debates the issue I will chair a public debate with speakers from both sides discussing the issues rationally before taking questions and comments from the floor”.

    THE REALITY – Due to public, schools, SMS and MP pressure you have caved in, as you thought this consultation and result would go through without anyone caring or noticing. There are always two sides of a story as a former newspaper owner should have known! I personally thought Mr. Mayor the consultation meetings were public debates, what happened to the speakers from both sides on these six occasions? When will the public debate take place? Let me guess the summer holidays and after the consultation document deadline!

    A quote from Frank Branston – Times and Citizen 2/7/09
    “My strong preference is for the decision to be made by a vote of the full council. If that is legally possible”

    THE REALITY – Question – Why wasn’t this decided and investigated (in terms of your mandate and the legal process) before the start of the consultation? Maybe Mr. Mayor, again you thought nobody would notice!

    Obviously, Mr. Mayor has a few social and friendship problems with Nadine. However, I personally feel a person with such a high profile role in Bedford Borough should be more professional, instead of coming across as a person trying very hard to offend on his blog.

    I also feel the Mayor should stand for re-election in 2011, as rumour has it this is unlikely???? If he and his education officials so passionately believe in improving education standards, then they should be here for the long haul, way beyond 2015/16.
    This ship has a long journey before it reaches its destination. Therefore it would be very unhelpful if the Captain is already looking for his lifeboat!

    Ed

  2. Sally says:

    Thanks so much Ed. It’s been on my mind to write something along the same lines ever since reading the Mayor’s blog and you have saved me the time. I couldn’t have put it better myself.
    What a very rude and unprofessional man and what a way for someone who holds such responsibility to express himself in the public domain. One only needs to read the Hansard extract from Monday evening in parliament to see how the more serious minded of our elected representatives conduct themselves.

  3. This is the text I want, I very interested in your writing to. I try to visit you more often. Success for you. Thank you.

  4. Helen says:

    Sally – I agree, and Ed, thank you for your comments regarding muddled and inconsistent leadership that seems to be going on on Bedford Borough Council. Like many involved in this debate, I have no party political axe to grind, participate rarely in this type of debate, and my children will not be as affected as others in these changes. I am however moved to write, if a bit at length, as I am so outraged. Firstly, at the insult to the intelligence of the electorate in both the consultation document and the public meeting I attended where we heard only a fully worked-up proposal for two-tier and the three-tier view was not heard as a presentation, we were presented with almost illegible graphs which not even the front row could see, and told that a maximum of one question per person was allowed, and to limit our contribution to 5 minutes. Secondly, I am deeply concerned at the under-estimating of the effect on the current generation of children of such huge uncertainties in the capital grants projects managed by a brand new authority that seems to be only just about getting over the huge reorganisations of April 2009.

    To add to Sally’s comment, for a balanced view by our locally elected representatives, please read Bedford Borough Council’s own Scrutiny Committee Minutes of the meeting mentioned by Ed above, called to address the issue on 13 May 09:

    http://www.councillorsupport.bedford.gov.uk/Published/C00000119/M00000786/$$$Minutes.doc.pdf (copy then paste this into the website address window).

    According to the Borough’s website (under the “democracy” section), this committee is the main method by which the Mayor and his Executive are brought to account in the current system of local government. There are clear recommendations at the end which, had they been followed, would not have resulted in the current mess of recrimination we have today:

    “1. The consultation document should include an indication of costing for any proposed changes
    2. The consultation process must be open and fair
    3. There should be a full and informed debate on the possible options for retaining the 3 tier or moving to 2 tier system without stress or prominence being given to either
    4. Information provided in the consultation should be complete and unbiased and based on evidence and not assertions and
    5. Other sections of the community who do not normally take part in public meetings should be approached to ensure that as far as possible all sections of local communities are consulted.”

    There certainly appear to be inconsistencies in the Mayor’s approach to this issue, for example, “the Mayor assured the Committee that the consultation would be fully open and fully fair. It would not be biased towards a decision one way or the other” and that “it would be pointless to produce a biased and defective consultation document. Such a document would not be acceptable to the Government and could lead to legal action.”(Minutes of Scrutiny Committee, 13 May 09.

    So either between the date of this meeting and production and issue of the Consultation document, the Mayor and Executive may have lost control over the actions of their Officers, or they perhaps felt it appropriate and correct to so greatly reduce the content and detail on maintaining and improving the current system as to persuade the consultees that two tier is overwhelmingly the better option. Either way, they must be seriously worried now, and quickly need to produce some substantial, balanced and well-publicised information on how they could improve the current system (and transitions between schools if they are such a major problem, though they were not for our children) using the capital funds that could become available – and all this before the public consulation period ends. Otherwise how can the electorate and hopefully the Council Officers possibly make a well-informed choice?

    At the same meeting (page 4 of Minutes), in response to concern that the document might advocate a change to two-tier, the “view was expressed that it would be necessary to include clear proposals in the report to ensure that people had sufficient detail on which to respond. If several different options were included, it was possible that responses received might be unclear” -it would even be possible for responses to come out against the proposed change to two-tier, if only people had had sufficient information on which to base a preference!! We can cope with choosing between two well-argued options, it is not rocket science. The job of the officers is to present these options clearly, with sufficient detail, and “in plain English” including translation of key passages where necessary.

    For those of you yet undecided on this issue, please ask your councillors to refer to the council’s own Consultation Policy for guidance on how it should be done, and to ask the Scrutiny Committee to meet before the public consultation is over to hold the Mayor and Executive to account over the consultation meetings and the document, to ensure that the Scrutiny Committee’s recommendations are followed up and carried out quickly, and that any debate for the sake of councillors is held without bias and with accurate information to inform their decision.

    Nobody wishes to see legal action further erode funds that could be spent on improving schooling, but we wish to see a redress of the balance of information issued by the local authority, and we need to see it soon please.

    Sorry to be so lengthy, but there is a lot of food for thought in this set of Minutes, so I hope this helps redress the balance a bit.

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