All this talk about the National Assembly budget has made me think about how it is going to work out at local community level. It looks as if the crunch area is going to be education - and I'm not surprised. I live in Powys and I am expecting an announcement about the first phase in the Council's plan for the 'mass closure' of primary schools before Xmas. No school with less than 35 pupils or with 40% unused capacity is safe from closure.
The current Council strategy was put in place some months ago when Coucillors agreed to a new policy without being given any idea of which schools would be affected. In a bizarre consultation exercise, every school was given a reference number to ensure no councillor knew what they were actually talking about. (It does happen from time to time that a councillor is not well-informeed but it takes a special type of council to put the pursiut of ignorance on a statutory basis.) Anyway the policy was approved and we await the inevitable consequence. This year's budget settlement, whereby Councils have been asked to absorb a 1% cut across the board (rather cutely decribed by the Assembly Government as an 'anticipated efficiency saving') has just about made the 'big axe' certain. The poor old Councillors are 'up the creek without a paddle' or at least at the check-out without a credit card. I have not the slightest doubt that my assertion, made a few months back that up to 40 of its schools are to be closed by Powys County Council will turn out to be an under-estimate.
It would be interesting to know what the Council's 'spokesman' would say if this was put to him today. Firstly, I would expect no answer for several hours while officials thrash around for a form of words that dismiss the assertion without denying it. There may even be a plan to put out an announcement on a Friday afternoon, just before Xmas for all that I know. I do not understand why the Council is just not straight with us. Powys has been put in an impossible financial position by the Assembly Government's budget settlement and it is going to close up to 40 small schools. Why not just say so and put the blame where it is deserved.