Councillor slams attempt to by-pass Moray schools review

Sean Morton – will not take part in school debate

A Labour councillor has said that he will refuse to bypass the work that Moray Council, consultants and communities have undertaken in reviewing education in the region.

Fochabers/Lhanbryde councillor Sean Morton has been speaking out after it was confirmed earlier this week that the Scottish Government had allocated an additional £10million for the maintenance of the school estate in Moray.

It has now emerged that a meeting of the full council on August 27 will have before it draft plans for refurbishment of several schools including St Gerardines Primary in Lossiemouth, Applegrove in Forres, Millbank in Buckie and Seafield in Elgin with a total budget of £15million.

However, Councillor Morton has said that he will seek a delay on the discussions – and request more time from the Scottish Government on spending the additional funding until such time decisions on the Sustainable Education Review (SER) are taken.

A member of the cross-party educational review committee, Councillor Morton has also said that if the discussion does go ahead at the August 27 meeting he will remove himself from the vote.

He said: “Funding for schools is more than welcome here in Moray – we all know the scale of the budget difficulties the Administration is faced with.

“However, the Scottish Government knows all too well that we are conducting a Cross-Party Sustainable Education Review to design an outstanding school system that’s fit for the future.

“The SER has not yet reported its findings. A decision taken by the council now as to who gets this funding would mean we are bypassing the SER process, because of time constraints put on us by the government.

“I have therefore asked council officers to request more time from the Scottish Government so that we can finish the review and decide where best to spend this new money.

“Should the decision on this funding proceed to Full Council on August 27th I will remove myself from the vote.

“As a member of the Education Review I will declare an interest because I refuse to bypass the work that we and the community have done together – simply because we weren’t given enough time.”

The chair of the parent council at Crossroads Primary in Keith, one of the schools under threat of closure under the SER, slammed the Administration, insisting that they could not care less about schools in rural communities.

Fiona Wallace said: “How can Moray Council propose to spend £15million on schools when we are slap in the middle of an education review? The schools that are receiving the money are clearly not earmarked for closure.”

The controversial Sustainable Education Review was conducted on behalf of Moray Council by consultants Caledonian Economics after it was revealed that it would cost the local authority as much as £50million to bring the region’s school estate up to standard.

A report by the consultants suggests a new ‘campus style’ reorganisation of schools – but with several under threat of closure and amalgamation, including Milne’s High in Fochabers.

Earlier this month the leader of Moray Council, Councillor Allan Wright, was criticised by Moray’s MSP Richard Lochhead for refusing to name the schools that would be subjected to improvements using the additional Scottish Government funding.

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