Friday, 26 November 2010

BSF Cuts

I am sure there are many, like me that are disappointed about the cuts to the Phase 2 of Fenland BSF - which means less money going into the rebuilding work at Meadowgate, Sir Harry Smith Community College, Cromwell and the Fenland PRU.   I thought it would be worth talking a little about the causes of these cuts.

As time moved on after last May's elections it became increasingly obvious to Central Government that they had inherited a huge problem with funding for new primary schools which was not dealt with by the previous Government.  This is a real problem, in Cambridge City population growth means we need additional classes for 180 children - if that growth continues that means a need for 6 schools the size of Alderman Jacobs (joint biggest in the County) this is genuine population growth that has not been caused by new housing.  The same problem exists across the Country and, coupled with the Treasury's needs to get to grips with the budget deficit and the debt inherited from New Labour, meant that funding to Partnership for Schools (the body that funds BSF) was cut significantly and this in turn means cuts to all of the BSF projects that are at the same stage as the phase two schools in Fenland.

Do I like what has happened?  No, of course I don't.  But in this instance I do not believe a huge protest will make a difference - this is not the same as the dreadful decision to cut funding to the new COWA facility which arose from the incompetence of both the LSC and the Labour Government and where the cuts were pretty random (but with largely Labour areas saved) - these are cuts across the spectrum.  In this instance I think the role of me and fellow County Councillors is to try and mitigate the impact on Fenland schools so that we can maximise the amount of money that goes into school buildings; I continue to do that.

This is not all doom and gloom.  Despite a really difficult financial situation at the moment, education outcomes (sorry for the buzz words) continue to improve across Fenland at a faster rate than they are Nationally; we are seeing new buildings going up at Neale Wade (which I was fortunate enough to see yesterday) and Thomas Clarkson; local plans to redevelop the COWA site in Wisbech are still moving forwards, despite the slap in the face delivered by New Labour; and the phase 2 BSF schools in Fenland are still forecast to receive millions of pounds of funding for rebuild and refurbishment.

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