Councillor hits back at claims that county is failing pupils

James Calvert Spence College building in Acklington Road, Amble.
James Calvert Spence College building in Acklington Road, Amble.

A Conservative councillor has hit back at claims that the county administration is failing Amble pupils, pointing out that school-investment funding has been secured.

At last Thursday’s Amble Town Council, Coun Jeff Watson disputed comments made by Coun Jane Dargue, who had said at the August meeting that the local authority was not sticking to its promises of helping James Calvert Spence College (JCSC).

Coun Dargue claimed that Coun Wayne Daley, cabinet member for children’s services, had vowed to formulate a business plan for JCSC, but it had not happened.

However, Coun Watson, who was not at August’s town-council meeting, said that work has been going on to aid JCSC and he referenced the recent full meeting of Northumberland County Council, where Coun Daley made a commitment to invest in the school.

Speaking last week, Coun Watson said: “I don’t think the comments made at the last meeting were justified. I don’t think it is fair to say that we are failing our children and to claim that meetings have not taken place is incorrect.”

Reiterating what Coun Daley had said at the recent full meeting of the county council, Coun Watson said that £540,000 had been secured for maintenance at JCSC, as well as a further £110,000 for new roofing. He added that an additional £6million has been requested.

Coun Watson also said that, at the county-council meeting, he asked Coun Daley for an assurance that ‘a sense of urgency and proper support’ will be given to education in Amble, to which Coun Daley’s answer was ‘unequivocally, yes’.

Coun Dargue was not at last Thursday’s town-council meeting to respond to Coun Watson’s comments.

However, Coun Helen Lewis felt that the town council had been justified to question the county council’s commitment to JCSC, claiming that Coun Daley had promised to keep the town council informed about discussions, but never did.

She said: “Coun Daley said he would get back to us, but he never did, despite requests to do so. So I feel we were quite justified to say at the last meeting that we didn’t know what was happening and question whether our children were being forgotten about.

“I understand that certain things have to stay private, but at that time we didn’t know what was going on and how much was being spent, because he never got back to us.”

In reply, Coun Watson said he couldn’t speak for Coun Daley on that issue, but said that it didn’t mean that the authority was failing children in Amble because Coun Daley did not get back to the town council.

Amble Mayor Craig Weir described the investment news as ‘very encouraging’.

The previous Labour administration had pledged £9million to refurbish the high school and bring the middle school onto the Acklington Road site in the run-up to the May 2017 elections.

But a few months later, the new Conservative leadership announced this was not going ahead, amid questions as to where this funding would have come from and whether a business case had been drawn up or not.