Havering council has tabled a set of proposals to cut and change the provision of school transport for children with special needs and disabilities (SEND).
A public consultation has been carried out, which local parents have told us is mis-leading and mis-representative of the facts.
Following meetings with impacted parents, Havering Conservatives tabled a motion calling on the council to stop the cuts. We did so as we felt that continued consultation was pointless, if the consultation was flawed.
Initially, the Havering Resident's Association (HRA) put forward an amendment asking the council to proceed with the 'changes' outlined in the consultation. They did so whilst admitting that they hadn't seen the consultation results.
To myself, and the parents, this looks like Havering Council had already made their mind up.
On the night changes
This Monday, I made a formal complaint to the council. I complained that the administration have shown evidence of being pre-determined about the outcome of the consultation. As demonstrated by their motion.
During the meeting, the HRA were allowed to alter their amendment, which was changed to simply read that their should be a decision after consultation.
The Council's legal lead admitted to an administrative error, on his behalf, that allowed the HRA to table a non-legitimate motion in the first place.
Did the HRA change their amendment because of my complaint? I've not heard back from it yet.
As expected, Labour and the HRA joined hands to vote the same way. As always. They backed the HRA's new amendment.
During the speeches there were attempts to blame government funding, the Truss budget, and denial from senior HRA councillors that there were cuts. They are 'changes', apparently, and the HRA claimed that they are listening to parents and that these changes will give more choice.
Showing they are not listening to parents.
My speech is below.
Apologies for the poor quality, my recording did not work and I have had to rely on the council's.
Text of my speech
Thank you Madam Deputy Mayor.
Before I move on to my speech, can I congratulate you on the way that you have chaired the meeting this evening.
I think it’s been an incredibly difficult meeting and I think you’ve performed the role with grace, and you certainly have a lot more patience than I do.
Madam Deputy Mayor, the Conservatives didn’t pluck this motion out of thin air.
We met with the parents, we proposed it to the parents, they support the motion and they’ve asked us to put it forward tonight.
Madam Mayor, the parents also do not trust the consultation process, which is why we are putting forward the motion asking for these changes to be paused.
following meetings with parents earlier this week I logged a complaint to the Council.
The original HRA amendment called on the Cabinet to accept the changes, before they had seen the results of the consultation.
This, in my opinion and that of the parents, looks very much like the administration has already decided what they want to do.
Parents we met are terrified by some of the proposals. In the words of one, some of the changes proposed are not legal.
Those we met believe they are being ignored, patronised, and abandoned.
As for the consultation itself, I have to say that it left me stunned. Cost comparisons were made vs UBER.
UBER, a company famous for having safety issues. Untrusted by women across London. And, a company whose prices rise and fall based on demand.
What should the parents do they go to book UBER and find surge pricing at 300%
What parent would put their vulnerable child into a car with a stranger, a stranger who has had no training on how to deal with children with complex needs. A driver who can refuse to take the job and who even leave poor reviews of that child to prevent them being picked up in the future.
The claim by the administration is, as always “the government is underfunding us”.
And there is some truth to that.
However, I read in the Romford Recorder this week that, through the proposed changes, the administration look to save “£1.4m in 4 years”.
Quick maths, that’s £350,000 a year.
Madam mayor, this administration has rejected a saving of £1m instead choosing the spend the money on free parking in their constituencies.
In this instance that are choosing parking over parents. And that is unacceptable to Conservatives and to those who are going to face the brunt of the cuts.
It is time they go back to square 1. Scrap the proposals and speak to the parents properly.
When it comes to looking after our vulnerable children, I choose to listen to parents over politicians every time