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Earlier this month locals and anti-cuts activists marched against the academisation of Horsforth School

Horsforth Against the Cuts have been campaigning recently for a fair an open democratic consultation regarding the academisation of Horsforth High School. As yet the school have resisted response to an 800+ signature petition, an 80+ person march and rally and pressure from the local press.

Andy Smith, Aireborough & Horsforth Socialist Party

The issue has been ongoing for some time and organisers from Horsforth Against Cuts have had several emails from city councillors regarding the issue, one even confirming her objection to the lack of democracy in the academisation process in Horsforth. This same city councillor Dawn Collins also sits on the town council in Horsforth. The latest in a long list of farcical representations of local democracy came from the Town Council and must contribute to the general apathy to politics being felt in the disenfranchised working class across Britain.

A local Labour Party member and Town Councillor John Garvani created a motion for the Town Council in response to Horsforth Against Cuts pressure campaign regarding a fair an open consultation. The response initially demanded that the Town Council support the position of extending the consultation period to allow local residents to be properly informed of the issues and then go on to provide a fair and open consultation of the community. At a meeting of the Town Council on Thursday 22nd of September the motion was presented for discussion after several members of Horsforth Against Cuts spoke on the issues. The speakers discussed the lack of democracy in the decision and the potential pitfalls of academisation. Lesley Connors from the Socialist Party spoke as a parent of a pupil at the school and again highlighted how little parents and local tax payers had been included in the decision making process. Each contribution left little to be said about academisation and the vote to discuss this issue at the general meeting on the 18th of September was passed unanimously with one member not taking part in the vote due to a conflict of interest.

The meeting on the 28th of September was again attended by members of Horsforth Against Cuts and several members spoke again about the need of the local people and the lack of democracy in a decision that will affect the level of education delivered in Horsforth. John Garvani again presented the motion for the Town Council to support a prolonged consultation period but, so as to further ensure achieving even this basic demand, any hint of opposing academies at this stage was removed. The motion was simply to give the local people, who have stated they have not been informed by signing the Horsforth Against Cuts petition, the chance to have all of the details explained to them and have them take part in the decision making process. It is worth mentioning at this stage that the proposal for the legality in consultation originally put in place by the conservative government included no necessity whatsoever for consultation. The Liberal Democrats put the little pressure they have managed to retain on to have an addendum added to the process, which suggests that the board of governors must consult the stakeholders that they deem suitable before continuing with the academisation process. In other schools, this has included several bourgeois bureaucrats, with business interests in the schools. In the case of Horsforth School, it included 6 parents of current students and the board of governors.

The national position of the three main parties is somewhat confusing when you consider the case of Horsforth School. Labour and Conservative alike are in support of academies, while the Liberal Democrats oppose them. It would be foolhardy for Labour to propose academies in the first instance and then not support them, even in the mangled guise the Conservatives are now forcing through as it would resemble closely enough their own plans for a privatised education system. The Liberal Democrats oppose them but have so far only managed to add a meagre addendum to a law which in any fair democracy would go without saying. This being the case, the next thing that happened should highlight further the moral vacuum that is local democracy.

When John Garvani proposed his motion of support for local democracy to play a part in the back door privatisation of Horsforth School, the Liberal Democrat Town Councillor and council Vice Chairman Ian Scott read out a letter from Roland Meredith, the chair of the board of governors and then went on to assert that the position of Leeds City Council is one of neutrality and as such, that is a position that the Town Council should adopt. This was suggested to remove the ability of the Town Council to play a part in putting pressure on the school to consult properly. A vote was taken as to whether to dismiss Cllr Garvani’s motion and was passed almost unanimously. In utter shock, the two Labour Town Cllrs left the meeting and Horsforth Against Cuts lodged their objections and followed.

This highlights the danger of a City Council feeling they cannot play a part in local governance and deciding for a position of neutrality. This position is ridiculous when you consider the fact that academisation affects unions abilities to function, it affects the amount of money each school has to function and reduces the amount of money available to schools who have not made the reckless decision to become and academy. More than that however, the local councils are effectively giving these schools away for free to local businessmen to run as they see fit. In the case of Southern Cross, we have seen what happens when business managers are responsible for care and provision.

This decision is appalling when you consider the purpose of a local Town Council. If they are not going to fight for their constituents right to have a say, then what are they for? Based on last year’s expenditure, they provide some flowers and stop affordable housing being built. As a TUSC candidate in last years elections, I have taken a position of opposing academies and have worked as part of Horsforth Against Cuts to fight these proposals. If town councillors refuse to listen to the people they represent then anti-cuts groups like Horsforth Against Cuts should stand candidates against them the next time those councillors are up for re-election.