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RCT Labour Council decision on nursery education ruled unlawful

 Mike Powell

For generations children in RCT have had the benefit of full time education from age 3. As part of their savage cuts the Labour Cabinet decided in January to put a stop to that.
They resolved that from September children should only go full time the term after their fourth birthday and children who are only part time would no longer get home to school transport or dinners provided.
However, a group of determined parents decided they were not going to take it lying down. They took the Council to court, and on May 23rd a judge declared that RCT acted unlawfully in taking the decision in the way they did.
The judge agreed that the Cabinet did not take into account their legal obligation to ensure there is sufficient childcare and that Officers failed to provide them with adequate information to make a reasoned decision.
Welsh Liberal Democrat Councillor Mike Powell and his colleagues have supported the campaign from the start, and are delighted by the result
"Opposition Councillors have often complained that decisions are being made with insufficient evidence being presented to Members, and that indeed was one of the man tenets of the argument against the Authority. Councillors are elected to represent their constituents and make decisions on their behalf. Those decisions need to be informed ones. Obviously our complaints have now been vindicated and the Labour administration can no longer dismiss them as political mischief making as they have tried.
"Services cannot be looked at in isolation and that is what has happened here. Little or no consideration was given to knock on effects with regard to childcare and employment opportunities. The Cabinet Members were ill informed as to their statutory obligations and failed to question the information placed before them.
"Part of the Council's argument was that the decision was primarily an education decision and therefore anything else is just secondary. Yet if this was an education decision why was the report written and presented by the then Head of Corporate Services?"
"It leaves the Cabinet and senior Officers with a huge amount of egg on their faces and questions have to be asked as to the whole cuts process. The parents at the centre of the campaign have done a terrific job and the outcome will cause huge repercussions."
RCT Welsh Liberal Democrat Campaign Manager Karen Roberts added
"The report upon which the unlawful decision was based was written by the then Director of Corporate Services Steve Merritt, who has since been promoted to Chief Executive.
"It is unbelievable that someone in such a senior position and on such a substantial salary could have been responsible for producing such a shoddy report. Questions must surely be asked as to the competence of senior management in the Council.
"It is equally disgraceful that Cabinet Members who themselves are paid handsomely for the work they do did not question it."

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