Closing two schools is the easy bit
Friday 18th October 2013, 4:00PM BST.
AS THE last Education Department roadshow came to a conclusion and another mauling finally stopped, the board’s political members must have heaved a sigh of relief and wondered why they were bothering to try to close two schools.
The reason, of course, is that they and their advisers believe it is the right thing to do and so they are acting out of principle and not to be popular.
They and their colleagues who will make the ultimate judgement in two weeks’ time in the Assembly, must also be contemplating that politics is all about the difficult decisions.
Except that this one is not. Unpopular, certainly. Controversial, undoubtedly. But not difficult.
The weight of evidence indicates that any effect on children is more likely to be beneficial than harmful and that closure also significantly helps to hit FTP targets and therefore mitigate future tax increases.
Seen in that light, the argument essentially
becomes one of whether taxpayer money should be used – wasted? – keeping open two unnecessary schools simply because a handful of parents really rather like them.
So for States members, it is actually a simple decision and not one that requires much thought or debate – unless or until you factor in emotion, elector pester-power and an election in 2016.
For that reason, what happens at the end of the month remains a lottery. When Education initially did its sums, it believed it could get the proposals through. But it has since lost the PR war.
How much of that rubs off on other States members has yet to be tested but one seasoned member believes that St Sampson’s will close but St Andrew’s will win a reprieve, which would be a dreadful fudge.
If correct, that assessment would also be a reflection on this Assembly, which promised a new way of doing things.
It would be bottling out of an easy but minority-significant decision when the harder ones lie ahead.
As the annual independent fiscal policy review by Professor Geoffrey Wood highlights, what happens when deputies are asked to start controlling welfare payments, introduce phase two of FTP and end civil service gold-plated pensions?