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Marks misleading about School funding
Manea people are being deliberately misled for political gain by the sitting Conservative District Councillor for Manea, Charlie Marks, who was elected as an independent in 2019 but has now joined the ‘local’ conservatives.
Councillor Marks, who is on the planning committee at FDC, made his unfounded claim at local hustings meetings for the Manea and North Chatteris ward that Cambridgeshire County Council governing parties with Labour in the majority have cut 2.5 million pounds from the agreed expansion of Manea School, even going as far as claiming “Yet again the Rainbow Alliance is taking from Manea’s children”
Chair of the North East Cambridgeshire Constituency Labour Party, Martin Field, who taught locally for 20 years, and is a Labour Party candidate for the local elections being held on May 4th 2023, was concerned about this allegation and sought clarification directly from the County Councillors involved.
Councillor Bryony Goodliffe, Chair of the Children and Young People Committee at Cambridgeshire County Council, stated that this was a complete misrepresentation of the facts and referred Martin to the minutes of the meeting held in November 2022, which are published on the county council website, at which Manea School development was discussed.
This made clear that, due to national government cuts to local authority budgets, the county council could only afford to pay for essential educational needs for any of the schools in the local education authority.
The money for a 4-class expansion at Manea Primary School, which was needed for educational reasons, has been allocated. However, a £2m internal remodelling was included in the proposed scheme and this was not agreed, as it was not thought essential for educational purposes. Councillor Marks expressed outrage that children at Manea would have to have PE lessons in the same room as they also had their lunch in, as though this was a terrible and unique situation, yet the reality is that there must be very few primary schools in the country that have the luxury of a separate dining room.
Councillor Marks further claimed that the money that would have been spent on Manea school was now being spent on schools in Labour controlled areas but provided no evidence. Bryony Goodliffe confirmed that Cambridgeshire County Council have no plans to build anything beyond educational need at any school in the local authority, because of budgetary pressures due to the chronic underfunding of Cambridgeshire schools by the Westminster government.
If Mr Marks wants to understand the real problem facing the underfunding of schools and other public services in Fenland, he needs to look at the actions of the Conservative run District Council. The infrastructure that can be delivered to local communities is impacted directly by the level of developer contributions negotiated by Fenland District Council.
There are concerns that Fenland District Council is unlikely to generate sufficient funds for the delivery of the additional school places necessary to meet the demands from new housing developments because they currently only levy £2,000 per dwelling (which is shared between health, open space, education, transport etc). The County Council’s own financial position, in keeping with many local authorities, means that it must restrict its borrowing and fund the creation of additional school places through developer contributions or capital grant. If there is a shortfall in developer contributions the County Council may have no option but to consider temporary classroom accommodation or transporting children to alternative schools, an unpopular and costly measure in a rural district.
As you can see £2,000 per dwelling doesn’t touch the sides in terms of education funding as a new primary school costs £25,000 per place alone without the other infrastructure needed
to develop communities sustainably.
If the Conservatives are unwilling to demand reasonable contributions from developers to help pay for the vital infrastructure that our communities need then it is time to elect Labour Councillors who will be prepared to stand up for Fenland and not blame other people for the problems caused by Conservative policies.