Local Lib Dem councillors have welcomed a U-turn on education funding by the Conservatives but warn that more support is needed for our most vulnerable children.
Lib Dem councillors campaigned alongside parents and teachers against Conservative plans to take £3million from mainstream school funding to plug a black hole in South Gloucestershire’s Special Educational Needs (SEND) High Needs Budget. The Conservatives previously said that if they did not do that, they would have to cut funding to support children with SEND in mainstream schools more quickly. They have now agreed that headteachers can work on alternatives.
Cllr Claire Young said: “I would like to congratulate all the parents, teachers and other campaigners who pushed back so strongly against these Conservative proposals, forcing the administration to back-track. While our local MP Luke Hall obediently wrote to welcome the Conservative administration’s proposal to syphon off £3million from mainstream education, Lib Dem councillors joined parents and teachers in rejecting all the options put forward and opposing cuts to both mainstream education and Special Educational Needs. Together we have proven that local campaigners can make a difference and force those in power to listen.”
“We are still concerned about the plans to reduce funding for children and young people with SEND in mainstream schools in the coming years. As parents have made clear, their children are already being let down, and reducing their funding can only make that worse. We will continue to demand better funding for our schools.”
Local Lib Dem education spokesperson Cllr Ian Blair said: “It was frankly outrageous for the Conservatives to suggest raiding the mainstream education budget at a time when South Gloucestershire’s schools are at breaking point. The Conservative consultation was a cynical attempt to pit parents of mainstream students against parents of students with special educational needs in deciding where the axe should fall. It backfired because parents and campaigners worked together to reject cuts to both to both the SEND High Needs Block and mainstream education. This is not the end of the matter however, as the administration have made clear that they intend to reduce spending on SEND High Needs once the local elections are out of the way.”
Lib Dem councillors have welcomed the news that Yate Minor Injuries Unit will have its opening hours extended to 8am-8pm, 7 days a week, from April this year.
Cllr Ruth Davis (Yate Central) said: “We are delighted that the local CCG have recognised the value of Yate Minor Injuries Unit to the local community and have agreed to extend its opening hours from April. Yate’s Lib Dem councillors have long campaigned alongside local residents to get greater services and opening hours at the MIU. We are grateful to the CCG and staff at the Unit for enabling this change to happen. We hope that these increased hours will help greatly reduce the number of people turned away from the MIU at busy times, a policy we have campaigned against since it was introduced.”
South Glos Lib Dem Group Leader, Cllr Claire Young, said: “I met with staff at the MIU last year and was impressed with the scale of the work they do for residents in Yate and the wider area. But they stressed to me that they do not always have the resources to treat everyone who comes to them on any given day. I’m pleased that the CCG has listened to everyone who told them how important it is that services at the MIU be extended.”
At a meeting held last weekend, Liberal Democrats in Thornbury and Yate have re-selected South Glos Council Group Leader Claire Young to contest the seat at the next General Election.
Claire, who lives with her family in Coalpit Heath in the constituency, previously contested the seat in 2017 and secured over 30% of the vote, cementing the Lib Dems as the main opposition to the Conservatives in the area.
Commenting on her selection, Claire said:
“It’s a great honour to be able to continue to speak up for local people in Thornbury, Yate, Chipping Sodbury and our villages.
“I look forward to speaking out louder than ever about Lib Dem priorities for the country and South Gloucestershire: improving the performance of the NHS both locally and across the country, demanding better funding in our schools, and of course giving you the final say on Brexit with an option to remain.”
Jayne Stansfield, Chair of South Gloucestershire Liberal Democrats, adds:
“Under Lib Dem rules, candidates don’t keep their post automatically between elections and have to win a vote of local members to stay on. The fact that Claire was reselected by a huge margin is testament to the hard work and dedication she has shown locally over so many years. I look forward to helping get her elected as our next MP, whether the election comes in 2022, or next week!”
Leader of South Gloucestershire’s Liberal Democrat councillors, Claire Young, has written to local First Bus managing director James Freeman calling on him to review his decision not to lay on any buses to Southmead from Yate or Thornbury on New Year’s Day. A decision that could leave hospital staff and those visiting patients high and dry.
Claire Young said: “Initially First said that they were not going to run any Yate or Thornbury buses at all on New Year’s Day, which would have been a ludicrous situation. Thankfully First relented after we and others wrote to express our concern. There is now at least a basic service with a few buses running to Bristol and back but it is still far from adequate. The lack of a direct service to Southmead is a real worry. This will mean that residents will struggle to visit sick loved ones on New Year’s Day, and hospital staff who usually take the bus will be left out of pocket. I wrote again to James Freeman asking him to address this problem.”
North Yate Lib Dem councillor Ian Blair said: “I raised this issue with the Conservative Executive Member for Transport Cllr Colin Hunt at last week’s meeting of Council. He said that his hands are tied because he has no control over the level of service provided by operators. This is untrue. First is subsidised by the council to provide bus services on bank holidays, with the level of service expected being set out in the contract. It is ridiculous if the council has neglected to make New Year’s Day subject to that contract. Once again the Conservatives have shown that they don’t care about Yate residents or bus users.”
Local resident Paul Hulbert said: "I was astonished to hear that there weren't going to be any local buses on New Year's Day. I am pleased that there will now be a basic service into Bristol, but it's very disappointing that there still won't be any direct buses from Yate to Southmead Hospital for staff or visitors. Let's hope that First Bus and South Glos Council get their act together for future bank holidays."
South Gloucestershire Liberal Democrats accuse Conservatives of “having their head in the sand” over the scale of the funding crisis in local schools
There were passionate exchanges at Wednesday night’s meeting of South Gloucestershire Council as councillors debated a Lib Dem motion calling on the Conservatives to do more to tackle the funding crisis in South Gloucestershire schools. Conservative Council Leader and Education Executive Member Toby Savage dismissed the recent BBC Documentary series “School” as showing a misleading picture of South Gloucestershire’s schools, leading to angry cries and derision from the public gallery and opposition councillors.
Local Lib Dem education spokesperson Cllr Ian Blair said: “Cllr Savage claims that he understands the pressures that local schools are under, but his attitude suggests otherwise. Rather than accept our motion calling for more action, he watered it down and made self-congratulatory comments about the amount of money the Conservatives have spent on school buildings and his reintroduction of an education awards ceremony. He doesn’t seem to get it. Our schools are at breaking point. Two out of three of our primary schools have had to cut class room assistants due to budget cuts. Half have had to cut teaching hours. This is not the time for the Cllr Savage to pat himself on the back. He and our three Conservative MPs need to increase the pressure on the Government for urgent extra funding – otherwise residents may begin to wonder what the point of them is.”
Lib Dem Group Leader Cllr Claire Young said: “As a parent with children in local schools I found it deeply frustrating to hear Cllr Savage try to downplay the problems our teachers face. Under his leadership South Gloucestershire has become the national poster-child for schools in crisis as a result of the BBC’s School documentary series. Yet Cllr Savage accused the documentary-makers of selectively editing the program to make the situation in our schools seem worse than it really is. Having heard from dozens of local parents and teachers, I can assure him that the documentary painted an all-too-familiar and accurate picture of the state of our schools.
“My worry is that if Cllr Savage doesn’t really believe that things are all that bad in our schools then that will be the message he reflects back to Government. He claims that he and our local MPs are already lobbying Government for more funding, yet there is little sign of it. Since he has been in charge of education at South Gloucestershire we have slipped down the league table to become the worst funded authority in the country for education. If his performance was graded in the same way that our schools are he would be found “requires improvement.” The situation in our schools is nothing short of an outrage. The Government needs to be shamed into action before it is too late.”