Investigate men who wanted Deanes axed: Campaigner refers officer and councillor to the ombudsman (From Southend Standard)
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Investigate men who wanted Deanes axed: Campaigner refers officer and councillor to the ombudsman
THE MEN who made the decision to close the Deanes School have been reported to the Local Government Ombudsman for gross misconduct.
Linda Allport-Hodge, a Deanes parent and a member of the Save the Deanes Action Group, has asked the ombudsman to conduct a “full investigation into the gross misconduct of councillor Gooding and Tim Coulson in their dealings with the school, parents and the community”.
Calls have already been made for Ray Gooding, county councillor responsible for education, and Tim Coulson, the authority’s senior education officer, to resign over the Deanes fiasco.
The school in Daws Heath Road, Thundersley, had been under threat, but was finally saved this week when the Office of the Schools Adjudicator ruled against plans by Essex County Council to close it.
Mrs Allport-Hodge, who is a former local government officer, said: “I sent a corporate complaint to the local authority when the closure was announced and highlighted all the issues that are evident in the report.
“The authority needed to investigate whether there was a cause for closure and I don’t think it looked at the community effects.
“It is the centre of the community.
I was fobbed off by the council at the time as they said it was in the early stages, but things have changed now. It is dereliction of duty.”
Mrs Allport-Hodge said she had also contacted the Serious Fraud Office regarding £4million that was split between the King John School, in Shipwrights Drive, Thundersley, and the Appleton School, in Croft Road, Benfleet.
The schools were given the cash following the announcement Deanes may close, so they could expand to take on extra pupils.
Mrs Allport-Hodge claims the money was “a free gift”.
Yesterday campaigners called for the £11million, sitting in council coffers, to finally be spent at the Deanes, after it was promised back in 2011.
Following the adjudicator’s decision, Essex County Council has now sent letters to parents advising them they can apply for places at the Deanes.
Mrs Allport-Hodge said the letters sent out by the council should be sent to all schools in the south of the county to try to boost the school’s numbers.
She added: “They should be writing to all the main feeder schools in Basildon and Southend advising them children can once again apply for a place at the Deanes.
“Essex County Council has constructively damaged the school.”
Despite the claims of “gross misconduct” David Lennard Jones, from the Office of the Schools Adjudicator, found “no evidence” the council had failed to follow guidelines over the closure plan.
David Finch, leader of Essex County Council, said: “I firmly believe the cabinet member for education acted responsibly with the educational interests of pupils central to their thinking throughout the process.
“I will not consider any resignations in relation to the closure of the Deanes School.”
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