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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Is Rhodri fit for purpose?

The claim yesterday by the First Minister that Welsh Liberal Democrat Councils are to blame for his government’s failure to meet its target on getting all school buildings fit for purpose by 2010 was just absurd.

The Labour Assembly Government made the promise in its 2003 manifesto but has recently abandoned it in favour of the less specific target of working with Councils to achieve the objective of making schools fit for purpose ‘as soon as possible’.

The Government made £630m available for school buildings between 2003 and 2007 all of which appears to have been spent by local authorities on that purpose. However, an authorative study by accountants Pricewaterhouse Coopers on behalf of the Welsh Local Government Association found a further £749m gap between available resources and required funding. Their figures were based on a comprehensive assessment of the maintenance backlog and ‘fit for purpose’ requirements of all 22 local authorities in Wales.

Only four of the 22 local authorities in Wales are led by the Welsh Liberal Democrats, whilst Pricewaterhouse Coopers are clear that the failure is widespread. The fact is that Labour overreached themselves in setting a target, which they could not achieve. They did not have the information to understand how much it was going to cost, they had not talked to Councils beforehand to establish their plans to reorganise schools so as to deal with surplus places and they failed to put sufficient cash into the system to pay for the work.

After six years as First Minister, Rhodri Morgan is blaming anybody but himself for his government’s failures. He should apologise to parents, pupils and teachers for raising expectations and then letting them down. This was his promise and he was responsible for delivering it, nobody else.

Rant mode off!
Dear Peter,

It seems to me that you and Mike German are quite correct to berate Rhodri Morgan for the poor condition of Welsh Schools.

When I was still living Cardiff I recall a conversation with retired teacher (who had been head of the upper school at Glyn Derw when I was there) who had worked both in the old South Glamorgan Lea and its successor Cardiff. He had told me that the Cardiff schools had been neglected for 25 years (buildings) they are in a terrible state.

The LibDem administration inherited neglect. Rhodri Morgan should know. He was one of the culprits. I recall that Jacqui Gasson (LibDem councillor for Caerau) had to drag Russell Goodway to see the dreadful state of Trelai Primary School because his council would do something about it.

My wife has been a teacher in both Wales and the US, and loves Wales. Her father Dr Richard Cooper was a very successful area Superintendent in the LAUSD (Los Angeles) with his area including West Compton, u would not have have found any of his schools in the same state as they are in Cardiff. A Matter of fact when he retired Harvard offered him a visiting professorship at same time that Rhodri was there. If he had taken it, he could have offered Rhodri some tips on running the schools.

Michael Alan Cridland

Dodge City

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