Senior Tory councillor defects to Labour over Gove’s school cuts

The deputy leader of the Conservative group on Sandwell council has defected to Labour in protest at Michael Gove's slashing of the Building Schools for the Future programme in her borough.

The deputy leader of the Conservative group on Sandwell council has defected to Labour in protest at Michael Gove’s slashing of the Building Schools for the Future programme in her borough. It is the latest in a series of blows to the education secretary since coming to office – and his second today, following the news, reported in this morning’s Guardian, that only 20 ‘free schools’ had been approved, well below the 700 he had boasted of earlier.

In an article for the Labour Uncut website headlined “Gove made me ashamed to be a Conservative”, Elaine Costigan writes:

“…This community has been treated with utter contempt by the government over the slashing of the school building programme and when Michael Gove backed out of his promise to come and apologise to the parents, pupils and staff he had so badly let down, I felt ashamed to be a Conservative.”


“I can no longer bite my lip and pretend that the way the Conservative-led coalition has treated Sandwell is OK. It is not, and I cannot be a member of a party that condones their actions.”

In all, nine BSF projects have been stopped in Sandwell. A month ago, Mr Gove actually went to Sandwell, to face councillors “who were furious to discover school building projects in their area had been axed – after they were initially told they were safe”, with Sky News also reporting that “representativse [sic] from the area visited Mr Gove at the Department for Education to try to persuade him to change his mind – but left the meeting empty-handed”.

This morning’s Independent, meanwhile, reports on the growing number of Liberal Democrat councillors resigning from the party in protest at the Coalition; Andrew Grice reports:

Eight councillors in four areas have already resigned and the party’s high command is braced for more resignations as the full impact of the public spending cuts becomes clearer. Town halls face a severe budget squeeze despite the Government’s pledge to devolve power…

Four councillors in Halton, Cheshire, who have quit the party and now sit as independents, said the Liberal Democrats had become “nodding dogs for the Tories”. One of them, Peter Blackmore, said he “can’t look people in the eye” because of the spending cuts.

In Liverpool, Councillor Ian Jobling has defected to Labour, accusing the Liberal Democrats of “double standards and hypocrisy”. He said: “Our manifesto in May clearly stated that there would be no cuts before 2011-12 because it would cost jobs.”

Two Exeter councillors who have defected to Labour, Rob Hannaford and his civil partner Adrian Hannaford, said they were unhappy that the Liberal Democrats had joined the Coalition. “We have spent a lot of time working for the Lib Dems and never thought we would be supporting a Tory Prime Minister,” they said. “We are both aware the deficit has to be cut but would prefer it to be done in a more steady way over a longer period.”

In Manchester, Councillor Ken Dobson has left the party and will sit as an independent. “I don’t feel I can defend national policy which harms the people of this city,” he said yesterday.

Other Liberal Democrats may also be on the brink of leaving the party. In Barnsley, councillors have sent out a leaflet asking their constituents whether they should go it alone, join Labour or stick with the Liberal Democrats.

“We are ashamed, as you are, of what the national Lib Dems have done in joining the Conservatives,” it says.

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