Monday, 6 December 2010

Eating Humble Pie

The powers-that-be on RCT council have finally had a dose of reality and ditched their controversial plans to overhaul post-16 education. Although the plans have been put on the back-burner rather than shelved outright, this may be more about trying to save face. It would be astounding if this deeply unpopular, expensive scheme ever saw the light of day again.

The council’s post-16 education proposals would have spelt the end of sixth forms and the creation of three new bilingual colleges taking their place. The plans provoked widespread concern among staff and their trade union representatives, as well as parents and students, because of the implications the move would have had on Welsh medium education, faith schools and special needs provision. Costing millions, the council said they would have borrowed through the Private Finance Initiative if the finance was not forthcoming from the Assembly. I would support moves to improve the education provided to teenagers and an expansion in the range of subjects available, but this proposal was not the best way to achieve those aims.

This embarrassment for RCT chiefs came shortly after news that thousands of loyal, hardworking staff were threatened with a ‘lock-out’ unless they were prepared to accept worse terms and conditions. Just like the Con/Dems in Westminster, the council justified their bully-boy tactics because of the pressures on their budget but this reprehensible behaviour came before they knew the terms of their financial settlement from the Welsh Assembly Government.

Now the worst case scenario the council were working on has failed to materialise, will RCT chiefs re-think their plans to impose a non-negotiable downgrade to the workers' contracts? The staff running vital frontline services in RCT deserve better treatment and a lot more respect than they have been shown by their Labour-run employer in recent weeks.

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