Cabinet member defends decision not to declare interest before controversial schools transport meeting
Suffolk County Council cabinet member Gordon Jones has defended his decision to not declare his position as a non-executive director of an academy trust ahead of a meeting discussing controversial changes to school transport.
The cabinet member for education is now facing calls to remove himself from the consultation that was voted through on Tuesday.
Mr Jones is a non-executive director of the Samuel Ward Academy Trust, and it has been argued that according to the Suffolk County Council’s code of practice, should have declared his interest before the meeting.
Parent and campaigner, Fiona Macaulay, said: “Samuel Ward Trust runs Sybil Andrews Academy and they are one of the schools that will benefit from the most extra pupils if these changes go ahead. How can we be assured that a fair consultation process is going to be held?”
Campaigner, Bob Jefferies, whose daughter attends Thurston College said: “I think they know what they want to happen and they are just going to press ahead with it. I have no confidence in them at all now.” The consultation is part of efforts to cut £3million from the council’s £21million home-to-school transport budget. It could cut services to hundreds of children who attend schools that are not the closest to their home. The council expects Sybil Andrews Academy, near Bury St Edmunds, to gain an extra 114 pupils if the system was changed.
Based on the average pupil funding formula of £4,347 per child, it would mean an extra £495,558 would be awarded to the academy. Nearby Thurston College is expected to lose 812 pupils. According to the council’s report, seven out of the top ten secondary schools that will see increased pupil numbers are academies. Seven out of the ten that will see a drop in numbers are local authority schools.
At a full council meeting last night, Labour councillor Jack Abbott questioned whether Mr Jones should still be involved in the consultation. But Mr Jones said he would declare his interest when the consultation papers return to council. He said: “I will remind you the paper on Tuesday was to go out to consultation and I was advised there was no need to declare an interest at that time. When the paper comes back, that is the time I will declare an interest.”