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From The Socialist newspaper, 15 April 2009

Council manoeuvres in Lewisham hit school children

Ian Page and Chris Flood Lewisham Socialist Party councillors, photo Socialist Party

Ian Page and Chris Flood Lewisham Socialist Party councillors, photo Socialist Party

AT LEWISHAM council's recent Annual General Meeting, the two Socialist Party councillors Ian Page and myself put forward an emergency motion. This is not usual for an AGM but this was a genuine emergency.

Chris Flood, Lewisham Socialist party councillor

Lewisham Bridge Primary School was scheduled for a temporary move over Easter after the council decided to demolish the school to build a new 'through school' for 3-16 year olds. Thames Water, the Environment Agency and other bodies had criticised the council's current plans and even said the land for the temporary school site was contaminated!

Ian and I argued that moving children to a temporary site, before these issues were resolved (and before planning permission had been awarded!) was wrong. With so many uncertainties it was unacceptable to move children as young as four, requiring families to put them on a bus every morning, to go to a 'temporary' school site for two years.

The motion argued that the council should halt the school 'decant' until all the investigations needed were done. The council's legal department gave out 'advice' that councillors should mind how they vote as it could debar them from voting when the plans come to any of the planning committees; a perfect excuse for establishment parties to hide behind.

The motion said that the council should recognise that children's interests would be damaged by the decant now. Nothing could be done with the existing site for the next few months, due to necessary further assessments, so why move the school now?

Parents are drawing the conclusion that council officers are pushing this project forward at any cost. The children would end up being moved days before SATs assessments.

The Labour group, backed by the Greens and Tories, used a bureaucratic ruling (agreed between themselves before the meeting!) to propose moving to the next item on the council agenda to avoid a vote on the motion.

This cynical wrecking tactic stifled debate in the council chamber. I spoke on the issues as the motion proposer. The other groups spinelessly voted to move to the next item.

Two angry parents confronted the Green councillors after the meeting for not supporting the parents and teachers and for doing a deal with the Tories and New Labour 'outside' the chamber. One Green councillor said he was also concerned over the site's contamination because of the effects on toads. Parents reminded him that their primary concern was for the children's welfare.

We pointed out that if the six Green council seats in Lewisham had been won as part of an overall left alternative at the last election, along with the Socialist councillors, then the council chamber could have had a very different result that night. This shows yet again the need for a new workers' alliance and a new workers' party.

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In The Socialist 15 April 2009:

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Marxist analysis: history

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Socialist Party campaigns

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Sport

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