Saturday, 25 June 2011

The closure of Kirkdale as a CEL centre...Mayor & Cabinet Meeting

Please read this....
circulated by Patricia Richardson, Adult Education 4 all


"Mayor and Cabinet meeting, 6.00 pm on Wednesday 22/6/2011

The closure of Kirkdale as a CEL centre

Four members of the public waited for item number 5 on the agenda, Tom Stacey, Cathy
Ashley, a Kirkdale supporter and me. Unfortunately the Mayor had to declare an interest in
this item. It was postponed until last, so he could stand down and leave. Deputy Mayor, Cllr
Alan Smith, chaired the proceedings.

The introduction by Cllr Best, Cabinet member for Communities, stressed the 25% reduction
in funding by the Skills Funding Agency over 4 years. The previous reduction in funding
by The Learning and Skills Council (which squandered SO much money that its CEO had to
leave, with a package, and its name was changed) has already damaged Adult Education
provision across the country. There is also a question mark over the “Safeguarded” funding!
Her point was that Kirkdale had to be closed in preparation for further reductions in
funding.

Cllr Muldoon, Chair of the Healthier Communities Select Committee was the first witness.
As was noted at their meeting Cllr Muldoon batted well. He reiterated his strong concerns
that the 2 vital reports, the Equalities Impact Assessment and the budget report were not
available for his scrutiny committee. Indeed the promise to provide the Mayor and Cabinet
report to the committee before the decision was made did not materialise either. He held
the officers to account over this and commented that the student witnesses had given a
more cogent presentation to his committee than the officer concerned. He underlined the
importance of scrutiny and stated it had to be given the respect it deserved.

Too right, where only one person has any decision making powers (The Mayor, unless
he has delegated to officers) this is crucial, but it is slipping …. I hesitate to use the
word “contempt” in connection with due process … He commended his committee’s
proposals that dual use of Kirkdale was valid and co-location was a serious option.

Cathy gave her usual coherent, considered view on the issue. She began by recommending

that proper user groups, as had existed before at CEL, should be in place to deal with
the serious issues arising. She stated that Learner Forums were not up to this. Her main
concerns, which she was able to prove with statistical evidence, were that once people have
a less accessible venue they do not attend. (Ditto libraries!) Travelling difficulties and costs
prevailed. Those with cars needed accessible, free parking. It was notable that Evelyn and
New Cross wards had the lowest take up figures for CEL, once Mornington Centre closed.
New Cross has since lost its library. Sydenham no longer has a Lewisham Library. With the
loss of the over 60s concession, only now for over 65s, one could anticipate loss of students.
This needed to be monitored and recorded.

As a specialist centre students had to be assured of the quality of the new re-location.

Costs of this exercise were NOT available. Answers when they came were the usual
officer waffle, “It will be alright on the night.” Well, it never is, but they just ignore the
consequences – “Shall we move on?” There was also the consequence for these other
centres of fitting in Kirkdale’s programme (actually 96% of it!) The implications of closure
for so many people have been ratified SO many times, why keep repeating them? All we
achieve are increasing levels of deprivation (libraries.) Why this insanity?

Aileen Buckton, Head of Communities, went back to her cash book. There are 2
funding streams, one for accredited courses, one for non-accredited courses (laughingly
called “Safeguarded.”) The latter figure seems not to be known at present, but money will
be available, but not increased over the period and requiring efficiency saving. The former
is already subject to 25% cut, approx. £650,000, and ESOL funding protection has been
removed. I will not insult your intelligence by repeating her excuses for not providing the
Select Committee with adequate information, on time.

We all appreciate financial provision is a central government decision, but then it was also
practised by the Labour government.

Cllr Egan had to be re-assured that there was capacity across the 3 centres. He made a
key point by asking if there was a strategy in place to build on the promises made by the
officers, it was important that there were follow ups and the collection of statistics recorded
the trends in student numbers. He wanted to see the results.

Cllr Maslin supported Cllr Muldoon’s comments on the proper treatment of Scrutiny
committees. Although he could perceive a negative impact to closure he went along with it.

DEAL DONE – Kirkdale closes from July 2011, and although it was past the
dinner hour, we went home for our dinners!"

Patricia Richardson

Adult Education 4 all
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