Anybody looking for an example of political gerrymandering need go no further that the events surrounding South Tyneside Councils “Transforming Our Primary Schools (TOPS)” report. With initial plans to close and merge at least 15 schools, the review was meant to be published at the end of this month. However, it has now been delayed till at least June 2008, after the local elections.
Public descent on these school closures has been considerable, none more so than in the Boldon Colliery Ward where the local Church of England school is one of those which may be closed. I am sure the reports delay has nothing to do with the fact that prominent Cabinet member Joanne Bell is a Councillor for the Ward and is up for re-election this year. Rumours of a “stalking horse” riding on a school closure mandate are constantly being mooted within the community. Other wards faced with similar back lash problems could find sitting Councillors equally vulnerable to being unseated.
The nominations in March will therefore be very interesting.