A CONSULTATION into the future of a Wirral special needs school has been described as a “complete farce” by opposition councillors.
Public consultation on the Eastham-based Lyndale school closed at the end of June after Wirral Council announced it was “minded” to close it, citing a drop in pupil numbers and a change in Government funding.
Its findings will be discussed by cabinet during a special meeting on September 4, with consultation responses now available for viewing by councillors.
But Wallasey Conservative Councillor Paul Hayes said the documents published do not reflect the huge opposition to the plans.
More than 10,590 people signed a petition to keep Lyndale open, with 89% of Globe readers also believing it should be saved.
During the six consultation meetings, parents and members of the public continuously asked if minutes were being taken and were told that “high level notes” would be published.
Those notes have now been made public following a Freedom of Information request by Wallasey’s Conservative councillors – documents they are not at all happy with.
“What has been published, running to just a few pages for each meeting, is not reflective of the huge opposition to the plans for closure of the school,” said Cllr Hayes.
“The consultation process has been a complete farce. Concerned parents didn’t even get answers to questions they put to the council until the consultation was about to close.
Julia Hassall, Wirral’s director of children’s services, said the meeting on September 4 is being held specifically to consider the consultation responses.
She said: “We have received approximately 90 responses to the consultation, and a petition has also been submitted to the chief executive.
“The important aspect is that all people affected, or potentially affected, by any decision have had the opportunity to comment on the proposals.
“The consultation meetings have been vitally important to us in receiving the views of parents, staff and other interested people.”
Ms Hassall added that where possible, the council has tried to provide answers to questions but, as with any consultation, the focus is “to receive views and enable people to tell us how they feel”.
She concluded: “Where we have been able to answer parents’ questions, we have endeavoured to do so with as much information as possible.”
Councillor Paul Hayes has also called on Wirral’s ruling cabinet to bring a halt to what he describes as the “uncertainty being suffered by parents and pupils of Lyndale School this summer holiday” and confirm that the school will stay open.
Speaking at full council on July 14, council leader Cllr Phil Davies said it would be “premature” to make a decision in advance of the September 4 meeting.
He added: “It’s absolutely essential that we keep an open mind.”
What has happened since the closure threat was first announced in December?
December 12: Wirral Council announced it was “minded” to close the school.
December 16: A petition to save the school reaches 3,000 signatures (it now has 6,443).
December 20: Parents ask the council for more time before a report is submitted to cabinet.
January 16: Wirral’s ruling cabinet agrees to consult on the closure of Lyndale.
January 21: Tory lead describes closing Lyndale as an "act of educational vandalism".
January 29: Opposition councillors “call-in” the decision and ask for it to be reviewed.
February 4: Call-in meeting cancelled after bureaucratic bungling means council is in breach of its own constitution.
February 11: Education Secretary Michael Gove pledges his support for the school.
February 14: Wirral South MP Alison McGovern chairs a public meeting over Lyndale’s future.
February 27: Co-ordinating committee uphold cabinet’s decision in rearranged call-in meeting.
April 2: Wirral Council launches 12-week consultation.
April 4: Lyndale parents brand closure consultation 'misleading'.
May 16: Lyndale parents' dismay at Wirral's stay-away councillors.
June 17: Parents beg Wirral Council to keep Lyndale open.
June 20: Petition signed by 10,598 people presented to Graham Burgess.