Council happy with school proposals

ANGUS Council say they have handled every aspect of the Arbroath Schools Project in an open and transparent way as the decision deadline looms for the new super school.

It is thought by the end of the month, Education Secretary Mike Russell will have made a final decision on whether to allow the closure of Muirfield and Timmergreeens primaries with the pupils being merged into a new school building in the grounds of Hospitalfield House.

The Scottish Government has been scrutinising the plans for the new £8 million school since August and last month asked Angus Council for more information regarding alleged abnormalities in the way the Muirfield and Timmergreens buildings were surveyed.

This was brought to the attention of the Scottish Government by Ewan Smith of the Muirfield Action Group who opposes having Muirfield Primary closed in favour of moving to a new larger school with Timmergreens.

And in a letter responding to the government’s school infrastructure unit, Angus Council education director Neil Logue explained the local authority was committed to making all information available on the project.

He said: “Efforts have been made to meet with Mr Ewan Smith with a view to clarifying, in particular, the approach that we have adopted in preparing school estate management plans and to demonstrate how the Arbroath Schools Project fits in to the council’s overall school estate strategy.

“It is of concern that Mr Smith has shown himself completely unwilling to take up these invitations to participate in open dialogue about objective and demonstrable fact, preferring, it would appear, to promulgate partial or inaccurate information and to foster groundless anxieties here in Angus and further afield.”

Mr Logue then also points out in his letter that these representations made by Mr Smith were made after the deadline.

He added: “In the case of Angus Council’s decision to close Timmergreens and Muirfield Primary Schools, the three-week period for receipt of representations set by the Act began on June 22, 2011, and expired on July 12, 2011.

“It is, therefore, difficult to understand why any representation received after the expiry of the statutory period prescribed and after the decision has been made by the Scottish ministers to “call in” the proposal, is being taken into account in the course of what is now, in our view, a needlessly protracted call-in process.

“It is our view that this process is appropriately documented, auditable and entirely consistent with national guidance.”

Mr Smith, who is part of the Muirfield Action Group, responded to the letter from Angus Council with his own letter to Mr Russell.

In it he says he believes there was nothing to stop him making representations to the Scottish Government after the call-in period.

He says: “I’m pleased to note that the Scottish Government took my concerns seriously enough to raise these points with Angus Council, however, I believe there is nothing in the Schools Consultation (Scotland) Act 2010, which prevents you from exploring and investigating evidence out with the original scope of call-in.

“I would also ask that all other aspects of this proposal are now made publicly available, including Angus Council’s response to the perceived failure to consult all relevant consultees, concerns over road safety issues and the investigation into the multiple responding computers in one of their public consultations over the school closures. In releasing all relevant documents to this proposal, the principles of openness and transparency of the Act will be met.”