Answers, as Requested, to the Questions Posed on Schools

Article excerpt

Re: Some major questions on schools still need answers (June 30), the gentleman from Rothbury is in error on a number of points.

Firstly, however, he correctly acknowledges that I have on several occasions explicitly refuted the allegation that the council had claimed Building Schools for the Future funding was dependant on restructuring.

Yet in his next statement he gives a text reference from Putting the Learner First Options Document, possibly suggesting that my much repeated statement is in conflict with a perceived definitive county council position.

He quoted: "This document sets out possible options based on the premise that the age of transfer in Northumberland will be at 11 years of age, reflecting the outcome of the last round of consultation and the requirements of Building Schools for the Future."

There was no reference in his letter to the detailed explanation of this line in Sections 6 and 7 in that same document.

It is not helpful to try to make sense, or nonsense, of important issues out of their detailed context.

The gentleman is in error when he assumes that the Options Document was a consultation document.

It was simply the authority's ideas and options on how the education system could be structured across the county.

He then alleges, again incorrectly, that the Labour group of county councillors was whipped into voting a particular way. He must know that every member of the Labour group, every member of the Liberal Democrat group and all but two members of the Conservative group voted in favour of the principle of a single age of transfer.

Is he suggesting that whipping was required to get this overwhelming majority of county councillors to take difficult, and in their considered view, necessary, decisions? Is he suggesting that the council should not have a preferred position?

There are no proposals to close any school at this time. When there are firm proposals they will be fully consulted on in open public consultation. That is the time for the appropriate debate. Without firm proposals, what can we possibly consult on ?

As for BSF finance, there have been no announcements on the detail of that funding opportunity. He can speculate on PFI, credit approvals and capital allocations but, until we have the detail, what is the point?

The point, of course, of the tremendous dialogue and activity that has taken place since last September, is to make a substantial improvement to what is currently on offer to our children. That is why councillors voted the way they did. Not because of whipping but because they realise the responsibility they have for children's education now and into the future.

JIM WRIGHT

Executive Member for Children's Services

Northumberland County Council

Nuclear option would leave us blowing in the wind

THOMAS Manley's attempts (In My View, June 30) to present nuclear power as the safest, and by contrast with renewables the most economic form of power, are ( to put it politely ( interesting. Economically, that haven of green activists in the World Bank states: "Bank lending for the energy sector requires a review of sector investments, institutions and policies. Nuclear plants in the power sector would not be economic; they are large white elephants."

The Asian Development Bank writes that it has not been involved in the financing of nuclear power plants due to concerns that include: "The transfer of nuclear technology, procurement limitations, proliferation risks ... and environmental and safety aspects."

If nuclear was promoted in lieu of fossil fuels, we then have the accelerated creation of highly radioactive waste products that can't be safely disposed of.

The Intergovernmental Panel on climate change in its evaluation of possible solutions to CO2 emissions concluded that relying on nuclear would result in 6. …

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