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Hope for last battle to save the Deanes School
6:00pm Friday 20th September 2013 in Local News
AN 11th-hour battle to save a school threatened with closure could be launched.
Essex County Council’s education boss Ray Gooding stunned campaigners earlier this month by deciding to close the Deanes School, in Thundersley, despite a working party of county councillors, concluding there was “insufficient evidence” to justify the plans.
A final decision on the closure was expected to be made by members of the authority’s ruling Tory cabinet on November 7 – none of whom live in south Essex.
It has now emerged if they vote for closure, there is a three-day window in which the decision can be called in by a member of the scrutiny committee. This could result in the decision going to full council, where all councillors will have a say.
The news has rekindled hopes the plans will fail as the Tories only have a nine-seat majority and the plans have come under heavy scrutiny from county councillors in Castle Point, the working party and Basildon and Southend borough councils.
Graham Butland, chairman of the scrutiny committee, who also chaired the working party, said it would be inappropriate for him to call it in, but he believes his colleagues will.
Canvey county councillor Dave Blackwell, who also sits on the committee, has vowed to challenge the cabinet if it opts for closure.
He said: “If the chairman doesn’t do it, I will call it in. This is such a big decision and I think it should be made by full council.
If it does, the Tories will whip everyone into line, but it will be a mockery of democracy if the Tories, who said there was not enough evidence to close it, change their minds.
“I think the Ukip councillors will vote to keep it open as well as the Liberals and I would be surprised if Labour and the Greens don’t, so it could be interesting.”
Desi McKeown, assistant headteacher at the school, welcomed the development.
He said: “We are really pleased to find out it could come before full council, otherwise the decision would be made by people who do not live in south Essex and do not know the area.
“It is not over yet. If it gets to that stage we feel very positive.
We could win because we have support from all the members of the scrutiny panel and the councillors in Castle Point and possibly Basildon as well.”
If the decision is called in, it could go back to the scrutiny committee for a vote on November 14.
If members agree with calling in the decision, it would either be referred back to county councillor Ray Gooding for a decision, or referred to the full council meeting on December 10.
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