Wednesday 26 March 2014

Mapledown: the school for disabled children paying the price of a Barnet Tory tax 'gesture'

Cuts in disabled pupils' funding to pay for pre-election tax cut worth 23 pence a week: 

Tory leader Richard Cornelius:

“I think the average person in the street thinks this is fair.” 

Pupils Liam, Hana and Faye and their carers at Mapledown School: pic Times Group

Sometimes Mrs Angry really does get very angry. 

That makes it very difficult to write, without resorting to more than the usual fully saturated content of hyperbole, and foul language. 

You'll have to excuse me, if you read on. 

Don't say you haven't been warned.

Mapledown School is a secondary school for disabled children, based near Brent Cross shopping centre, situated in a less than ideal environment for any children, edged against the North Circular, on one side, with the A41 rushing by not far away on the other. This school provides vital care and education for 65 young pupils with severe and complex learning disabilities. Some have multiple disabilities, and others are on the autistic spectrum. As well as caring for the children's educational needs, the school offers vital support to them and their carers with after school clubs, and half term play schemes

An astonishing story yesterday in the local  Times group newspapers has revealed that due to a cut in funding of £45, 000, by Barnet Council, these ventures will have to be cut by 25%, causing enormous hardship on families relying on the already heavily oversubscribed programme.

If you know anyone with a child with such a degree of disability, you must know how hard it is for their parents to continue, day after day, to support their children, often struggling at the same time to maintain their commitments with work. The respite that after school clubs and holiday schemes offer to such parents are an absolute necessity, in practical terms and emotionally too. Now they are faced with the intolerable choice of finding the financial resources to cover the loss of funding for their child's place, or struggling on without such help. For a child with severe needs, such uncertainty and lack of continuity will be deeply upsetting, and for their families, the burden is unimaginable.

As one parent in the article says:  

“We are a group of people who are so overwhelmed with our daily lives that we often don’t say anything - we’re exhausted. We don’t have time to put together huge protest campaigns to fight this - it is tough to be heard.”

When asked about the financial restraints which the authority is offering as the reason for these budget cuts, Tory leader Richard Cornelius seeks to shift the blame to central government, and also attempted once more to justify his pre-election 'gesture' of a one percent cut in council tax, which has deprived the council budget of £1.3 million in revenue, whilst returning the total of 23 pence a week to taxpayers.

“It is not us that has cut the funding and if we were to cover all the cuts from central government we would be looking at doubling council tax.

“It is about striking a balance between spending and taxing. This country is groaning under the level of tax at the moment.”

Asked if he thought the decision to lower council tax at the same time as cutting the school’s budget was fair, he said: 

“I think the average person in the street thinks this is fair.” 

Do you really, Councillor Cornelius?

What a stupid, shameful, utterly repugnant remark to make.

Today we read that the Tory cabinet member for schools, the ineffable Reuben Thompstone, has never bothered to visit Mapledown, but is happy to endorse the cuts, claiming the council's hands 'were tied' by central government. 

This is just not true: the Tory group chose to reduce vital revenue from local tax for political reasons, knowing full well the impact this would have in meeting central funding reductions.

And in this decision we see the real face of Barnet Conservatism. Totally lacking in compassion, or empathy. Utterly driven by political ideology, blinkered by lack of intellectual challenge, or even imagination. 

It is the mark of a sociopathic administration, intent on following its own obsessions with no regard for the impact on those who bear the burden of their half baked, bigoted ideas, a swamp of muddled instinct: financial restraint in the form of tax is bad, except for the poor, freedom to do what you want, free of consideration for others, is good. Leave the people at the bottom to sort themselves out, but give a helping hand to those who already have privilege, and power.

Councillor Thompstone did have a useful suggestion, however:

“I would encourage the school to be more creative in some of the ways it raises money."
More creative in the ways it raises money.  

Thompstone: I suggest you spend a day and night with the family of a child with such severe needs, and then come back and tell us all exactly how and when the exhausted carers of such children can possibly do any more to support their children, and their children's school.

Until then, friend, I also suggest you keep your big mouth firmly shut, and count down the days to the election, at which time I sincerely hope you and your colleagues will find yourselves unceremoniously kicked out of office, and left with an abundance of time to contemplate the reasons why.

In the meanwhile: one creative way to raise money to cover the cost of the support schemes you are cutting has occurred to Mrs Angry.

The £45,000 you want to withdraw more or less matches the amount of payrise Tory councillors awarded to the Chairs of committees, in addition to the already generous basic allowances, as soon as you all returned to power in 2010. 

A mere increase of 54%, from £7,000 to £15,000, and agreed at the same time you were lecturing us, the residents and taxpayers, about the need for painful austerity measures.

Let's see you put the welfare of pupils at Mapledown and their carers before your own interests, and volunteer to return the increases you most certainly have not earned over the last four years.

Or are you not, after all, all in this together with Liam, Hana and Faye?

This is Broken Barnet, 26th March 2014. 

Readers: there are fifty six days to go before you can liberate us from the rule of this loathsome, merciless, cowardly Conservative council.

Please use your vote wisely.


Partygirl said...

Cornelius, Thompstone and their cronies should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. Professionally and personally I have met parents, carers and children like Mapledown's pupils and I have the utmost admiration for them all. But they don't quite fit this administration's ideals do they so Cornelius and his chums think they can ride roughshod over them. Good luck to all at Mapledown and let's hope on May 22nd we teach the current administration a lesson. And incidentally if Thompstone hasn't even visited Mapledown, what is his salary for? Perhaps his suggestion of the "school being more creative in the way it raises money" might include an application to him for funds?

Mrs Angry said...

You might think that someone endowed with the responsibility for schools would feel it necessary to see for himself the conditions in which the most vulnerable and dependent children in the borough are educated and cared for. Clearly this is of little interest to Thompstone, although he is happy to insult them by suggesting they should spend their time thinking up ways to cover the cuts he and his colleagues have chosen to impose. I'm afraid this is yet another example of a young and inexperienced Barnet Tory councillor being given too much responsibility. Not sure how we explain Cornelius' crass comments, except that he too is inexperienced in political terms, being more used to flogging engagement rings than dealing with the realities of social care.