Primary School Plan For Wimbledon Is Cuts Victim

MP raps council for failing to carry out new school plans

Wimbledon's Tory MP Stephen Hammond has criticised the borough's Labour council for failing to press ahead with plans for a new primary school in the area.

But Councillor Peter Walker said following nearly £1m worth of cuts now facing the relevant council budget after cutbacks by the new Conservative Goverment, they can't guarantee they would have cash to pay for staff at a new school.

Mr Hammond (pictured left) raised the issue during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons.

He said afterwards: "The shortage of primary school places in Wimbledon and Raynes Park is one of the major headaches facing local parents.

"Only last week a lady contacted me to say her child was not allocated a reception place at all, in spite of living within half a mile of a number of primary schools.

"The new school which the Conservative council promised would have gone a long way to ease the pain of local parents. I am therefore extremely disappointed that the new administration in Merton is refusing to commit to take the project forward.

"Whilst Labour MPs are jumping up and down because their Government made promises on secondary schools that could not be fulfilled, in Merton we have a situation where the funds for a new primary school are there, but the political will is not."

Councillor Walker (left), the council cabinet member for education, agreed there was a shortage of primary school places in Wimbledon. He said there had been a 25% increase in the number of four-year-olds in the borough from 2007-2012.

But he added: "As Mr Hammond, who is PPS to the Local Government minister knows full well, since the election of the new Labour Council in Merton, the Conservative Government have imposed damaging cuts on local authorities. 

"In Merton we are facing a cut in this financial year of just under £1m from the funds from which we pay teachers in new schools.

"As a result if I press ahead, as I wish to, with a brand new school for primary aged children in Wimbledon we may find that we have a school but no staff or headteacher to run it.

"Instead of making political points which ignore the policies that the government are imposing on us, I would be happy to listen to any helpful suggestions from Mr Hammond.  In particular I would value his input on how in light of cuts to our budgets this year and for the next three years we can find the resources to fund staff for a new school."

Last week the council agreed to press forward with original plans to permanently expand Hollymount Primary School, in addition to a permanent expansion of Joseph Hood School.

July 21, 2010