Last month I attended the county council meeting in Chichester. Also present in the public gallery was a group of students, accompanied by staff, from Woodlands Mead Special School.
This school caters for those with a wide range of special needs from across the county.
These young people had come in support of a petition signed by thousands of residents; their request that the council complete the work on their school (promised in November, 2010) and ensure that students ‘no longer had to languish in temporary refurbished buildings and old huts with leaking roofs, holes in the floor and inadequate toilet and hygiene facilities’.
The young people were respectful, dignified and attentive in the face of the customary bureaucratic procedures and sterile debate in the chamber. The proposition that the council proceed with the completion of the school put by Andy Petch, an Independent councillor, failed to be supported by the Tory-majority council, though some Tory councillors abstained. The young people left; their hopes and those of their hard-working teachers, school governors, parents and friend dashed again.
As a regular observer of council meetings, I have seen numerous motions, propositions and amendments put by councillors from the range of opposition groups, fail time and time again as Tory councillors stick to their ideological perspectives and the demands of their leader, whatever the merits of an individual case. With the county council election on May 4, as electors, we will have the opportunity to hold councillors to account on their record of attendance and voting on issues that matter to us; we will be able to challenge all candidates on how they plan to spend our money and to deliver the sort of services we deserve. We have the opportunity to take back control and ensure that our council is accountable to, and properly representative of, the people who need its services the most.