CALLS have been made for education bosses at Essex County Council to resign unless they commit to spending money on rebuilding the Deanes School.
Ray Gooding, county councillor responsible for education, and Tom Coulson, the authority’s senior education officer, have come under fire for not indicating they will spend £11million to rebuild or redesign the school, in Daws Heath Lane, Thundersley.
Yesterday the Echo revealed how County Hall’s plans to close the school had been scuppered by the Office of the Schools Adjudicator, a Government body.
The school is still pursuing the option of becoming an academy and coming out of county council control, but in the meantime education bosses at County Hall are sitting on a pot of money, originally allocated spend on the Deanes.
Mike Mackrory, leader of the Liberal Democrat group at County Hall, said: “Given the adjudicator’s report, Ray Gooding’s position as cabinet member is really untenable. I think he should resign because if you read the adjudicator’s report it is damning.
“The report disputes what Essex County Council has said all along – that it is not about money. Clearly it was an influence, and the administration had alreadymade its mind up.”
Sarah Raven, from the Save Deanes Action Group, said: “We want heads on spikes over this. It is absolutely despicable.
This is one of the biggest scandals the county council has faced and we want Ray Gooding and Tim Coulson to resign over this.”
Up until May last year, County Hall was pursuing plans to co-locate Glenwood School, in Rushbottom Lane, Benfleet, with the Deanes School in a new £23million building.
About half that money, £11million, is available to spend on the Deanes alone but that is still sitting in a council bank account.
In yesterday’s Echo, Mr Gooding said the council had no intention of funding the rebuild of the Deanes School.
Conservative Bill Dick, a former county councillor and a current member on Castle Point Council, said: “That money is still sitting in a pot, and it kept telling the school it was always available.
“There is no reason why they can’t give it to the school to help it. The Glenwood and Deanes School was a marriage made in heaven.”
Canvey county councillor Dave Blackwell said an investigation needed to be carried out into the whole process.
He said: “I honestly believe Ray Gooding is an honest man and, as an honest man, will have to look seriously at his own position and the people who gave him the information.
“Essex County Council was given £96million for extra school places and it has £23million in the pot, so, if Deanes do es not receive money, then it is being penalised and the council is not playing fair.”
David Finch, leader of Essex County Council, remains supportive of Mr Gooding.
He said: “I firmly believe that he acted responsibly with the educational interests of pupils central to their thinking throughout the process. I will not consider any resignations in relation to the closure of the Deanes School.”