Email sent be­fore de­ci­sion to scrap free school buses

Macclesfield Express - - FRONT PAGE - BELINDA RYAN

APRESS re­lease say­ing Cheshire East cabi­net mem­bers had ap­proved plans to scrap free school buses was sent to some cabi­net mem­bers six hours be­fore the de­ci­sion-mak­ing meet­ing had started, it has been re­vealed.

The Cabi­net voted to re­clas­sify five routes to schools and with­draw free trans­port for a to­tal of 500 stu­dents from April 2017, in­clud­ing a route along the Mid­dle­wood Way from Bolling­ton to Tyther­ing­ton.

How­ever the ‘fi­nal draft’ doc­u­ment, ob­tained through a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quest, was emailed from the coun­cil’s press of­fice to four Con­ser­va­tive coun­cil­lors at 8.35am on Oc­to­ber 18 – the same day of the 2pm cabi­net meet­ing where the fi­nal de­ci­sion was taken.

The coun­cil main­tains draft­ing such an email in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the out­come of a meet­ing is stan­dard prac­tice car­ried out by many lo­cal au­thor­i­ties.

But sev­eral coun­cil­lors asked why a sep­a­rate press re­lease was not also drafted in case the cabi­net de­cided to keep the buses on safety grounds after it had heard the ar­gu­ments from cam­paign­ers at the meet­ing.

Bolling­ton coun­cil­lor Amanda Stott said: “I feel dis­gusted that res­i­dents and chil­dren all gave up their time for the meet­ing and it ap­pears to make a mock­ery of the whole process.”

Head­teach­ers and pupils trav­elled to Sand­bach on Oc­to­ber 18 to at­tend the meet­ing and protest out­side the coun­cil’s HQ in a bid to save the buses.

They say the route – which in­cludes the Mid­dle­wood Way – is a poorly lit, dis­used rail­way line with high em­bank­ments and no es­cape route if a child was be­ing pur­sued by a preda­tory adult.

Manny Botwe, head­teacher at Tyther­ing­ton School, said: “I was very dis­ap­pointed to hear that a press re­lease was sent to cabi­net mem­bers be­fore the de­ci­sion-mak­ing meet­ing had taken place.

“I am bit­terly dis­ap­pointed that the safety of our young­sters has not been pri­ori­tised.”

A Cheshire East Coun­cil spokesman said: “Press re­leases may be drafted in ad­vance of cabi­net or full coun­cil meet­ings in an­tic­i­pa­tion of a par­tic­u­lar out­come based on the rec­om­men­da­tion in the re­port the meet­ing is to con­sider. This is to as­sist the press and public to ob­tain a full ex­pla­na­tion of the de­ci­sion as quickly as pos­si­ble. The draft press re­leases are based on the rec­om­men­da­tion in the re­port and that will not nec­es­sar­ily be the fi­nal de­ci­sion by coun­cil or the cabi­net.

“If the rec­om­men­da­tion is not ap­proved, then a fresh press re­lease would be is­sued ex­plain­ing the coun­cil’s po­si­tion.”

A spe­cial meet­ing to dis­cuss the re­view will be held on Thurs­day, Fe­bru­ary 23, at Sand­bach Town Hall at 11am.

He­len Crowther has do­nated her kid­ney to friend Andy Clewes

Head­teacher Manny Botwe said he is ‘bit­terly dis­ap­pointed’

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