Harlow Labour’s Chris Vince slams Tories over school closure “debacle”

General / Fri 1st Sep 2023 at 01:10pm

THE Labour candidate at the next General Election has expressed his sympathies for all concerned over school closures but slammed the Conservative government.

Chris Vince said: “My thoughts are with pupils, parents and teachers at Katherine’s primary school who like their counterparts at Sir Fredrick Gibberd (SFG) College face an uncertain start to term, as well as those at other schools whom face uncertainty.

They can sugar coat it all they like but the news that more than 100 schools need to be closed over fears that their buildings could collapse is a disaster for children and families. Countless thousands of young people across the country face potentially being displaced and having their education severely disrupted. But it is also a scandal showing the sheer incompetence of this Conservative government.

Last week I met with parents of students from SFG college who, despite the very best efforts of the staff of the school, still face an uncertain future following the news that there are structural issues with the newly built school. Temporary classrooms, buses to other schools, timetable changes are far from ideal and not what parents were promised when they chose to send their children to SFG.

However, it seems that this issue is only the tip of the iceberg with many other schools now facing closure due to crumbling concrete, leaving the Government with many serious questions to answer.

What will be done to ensure not only the immediate safety of the affected young people but also that they face as little disruption as possible?

Why was the government so slow to act? They were warned in 2018 that over 156 schools were constructed with dangerous RAAC concrete, and the Conservative’s inadequate response was to send out a questionnaire to schools almost five years later which revealed in June that many school buildings were unsafe and had been unsafe for some considerable time.

The reckless delay in sending pupils into schools across the country, known to be dangerous for the last six weeks of the summer term mirrors the last minute closing of the dangerous SFG building and is absolutely shameful. Emergency measures should have been put in place for SFG. In April, as soon as the issues that led to the demolition of two similar schools in Cornwall were known.

And finally why did this Conservative government cancel the last Labour government’s school building program when they came to power in 2010?

“Clearly the Conservatives chose to ignore the long term need of refurbishments of schools and this mistake is coming home to roost at enormous cost. Instead they chose to rush through a cut price school building program to the detriment of Harlow and other communities. It’s now the young people of Harlow and across the country who are paying the immediate price for this in terms of disruption, lost educational time and opportunities.

“The taxpayer will also pay a very expensive price for the immediate repairs and temporary accommodation followed by even more costly rebuilds which should have been competed years ago before the current hike in building costs caused by the soaring inflation resulting from the Conservatives crashing of the economy.

“Harlow’s next generation deserves better than this!”

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17 Comments for Harlow Labour’s Chris Vince slams Tories over school closure “debacle”:

Mike Price
2023-09-01 13:50:26

Corruption, greed and backhanders no doubt

Ian Cooper
2023-09-01 13:58:17

What is wrong with Harlow's Labour party?! Have they just chosen to ignore the fact that RAAC has been a problem since 1994, during the majority of the period that Tony Blair's Labour Government was in power?! If they are so concerned about this, why did they not do anything about this when they were in power? Unlike this Government, who have acted quickly to make sure everyone is kept safe. I know it's hard for parents and kids in the area, not to mention the schools, but at least they are acting to protect people, rather than just create sound bites to serve their own political interests - like Cllr Vince.

2023-09-01 14:36:57

Sorry Ian, but Chris is right to slam the Tories. The current danger was reported to the government in 2018, when the Tories were in power. Don't try and put the blame on Labour, they had a program to rebuild schools that delivered the new Passmores amongst others, a program the the Conservatives cancelled when they can to power in 2010

2023-09-01 14:37:48

Councillor Vince comments - "They were warned in 2018 that over 156 schools were constructed with dangerous RAAC concrete, and the Conservative’s inadequate response was to send out a questionnaire to schools almost five years later which revealed in June that many school buildings were unsafe and had been unsafe for some considerable time". So that was 5 years ago. 5 years of allowing children to attend unsafe schools. Why were they not shut and work carried out then? Maybe if they had of been then the task in hand would not be so massive now? However, Hindsight is a wonderful thing and no one is perfect, but surely they cant carry on getting things so wrong? One debacle after another. Then getting touchy when told the truth.

2023-09-01 15:17:49

As Katherines announces concerns over this so has closed the school, It's worth reminding some that Labour was in charge when it, and many of these schools were built, 1974-2002. I only mention this because the people of Harlow need a council who can resolve these matters and NOT carry on bickering seeking opportunistic crumbs for a forthcoming election. No wonder why so many would dearly love "none of the above" on the next election ballot paper. No one wants to accept responsibility for their wrong doings and no one is grown up enough to see multiple party cohesion to represent the best for Harlow. As politicians go, we seem to have those resembling Market Square instead of the Water Gardens. Harlow is a dumping ground for other councils and our representatives won't stop it. Harlow authorities are so busy putting party before town, that we have been poorly served for decades by our elected officials both on the council and as mp's. Whilst labour and tories constantly bicker like two kids in a playground, Harlow continues to be the last place in Essex most people want to be. Sort out your childish antics or leave the political arena, Harlow deserves better.

2023-09-01 16:26:20

Yawn!! Labour slamming Tories, Tories slamming Labour. It's becoming so very boring and shows just how unprofessional these parties are, bickering like kids in the playground. Get rid of both of them and start afresh I say.

2023-09-01 17:04:59

"RAAC has been a problem since 1994" - So the Tories knew about the problem while they were in Opposition, and for 13 years while in power and have done nothing until now? That's a long time for generations of children to be in danger. Chris said that they knew about the problem since 2018, but if they knew about it since 1994 that makes it worse for the Tories. I expect Chris is thanking you for reinforcing his point. Odd that so far this has only happened in state schools - have any private schools been affected?

Cliff Taylor
2023-09-01 17:41:01

The back and forth of blaming each other is aggrevating, boring and ultimately pointless. BUT our country right now: Schools falling down Hospitals on verge of collapse Train drivers and doctors on strike Prisons overcrowded and decrepit Court backlog NHS wait list through the floor Cost of everything sky high Economy up the creek And more and more.. I choose to live here. I love it here. I'm proud to be English and from Harlow I choose to bring my kids up here. But if its a business you blame the boss. If its a ship you blame the captain. If its a country you blame the government. If Labour are rubbish too, then get them out too but for God's sake it can't get any worse than this!!

Terry Munro
2023-09-01 19:12:29

Let's get real. Would anyone with an IQ higher than that of a Turtle in Pet's Corner seriously consider voting for Chris Vince? He is barely literate and must be one of the most vacuous and inarticulate candidates in the UK ( against some serious opposition like Diane Abbot - 2+2 =12). For God's sake, this has to be a bad joke or s nightmare! He is about as useful as a barber shop on the steps of the guillotine. If he becomes our MP, either move away or hope we get absorbed into East Herts or Epping! Have you actually heard him speak? It is painfully embarrassing. And don't forget, he tried to be adopted in Southend and Colchester and was rejected. So their reject is now good enough for Harlow? Heaven forbid!

Turtle in pets corner
2023-09-01 21:14:59

Terry Munro? That’s a bit more original. Like it. I would vote for CV. But then again I’m a turtle in pets corner! What’s wrong with us turtles ? That’s turtleism. Tory turtleism. Hope RH will work hard for us!! Doubt it, so I know CV will keep our heads above water. Gulp, gulp. Say no TT…..

David Forman
2023-09-02 01:32:33

The National Audit Office report from June this year proves Chris Vince is wrong to say "the Conservative’s inadequate response was to send out a questionnaire to schools almost five years later." The NAO report says: "DfE has been considering RAAC as a potential issue since late 2018 following a school safety incident. Between then and early 2021, it worked with other bodies to issue warning notes, expanded its data collection programme, and issued a guide for identifying RAAC. In March 2022, DfE sent all responsible bodies a questionnaire asking whether their buildings contained RAAC. It is now focusing on around 14,900 schools with buildings constructed between 1930 and 1990. As at May 2023, around 6,300 (42%) of these schools had told DfE they had completed work to identify RAAC. Through this, and wider work, DfE had identified 572 schools that may contain RAAC. It is working with these schools to confirm mitigations are in place for pupil and staff safety. A specialist will assess all schools with suspected RAAC, and DfE has allocated £6 million for 600 assessments by December 2023. By May 2023, specialists had completed 196 assessments and confirmed the presence of RAAC in 65 schools, of which 24 required immediate action." See page 8 of full report at https://www.nao.org.uk/reports/condition-of-school-buildings/#downloads

David Forman
2023-09-02 01:53:39

The National Audit Office report proves that Chris Vince, despite being a former maths teacher, cannot calculate the time period between a school safety incident involving RAAC in late 2018 and a questionnaire issued in March 2022. This is not "almost five years later" as stated by Mr Vince In fact it is less than four years! Another 'less than 5 minutes' letter from Chris Vince.

Keith Raggett
2023-09-02 08:23:41

Who was in power in the 50s and 60s when this was installed blame that gov it was cheap to use, just to save money, I think it was labour who were in power

James Leppard
2023-09-02 08:47:40

Chris Vince ends his statement saying: ".....caused by the soaring inflation resulting from the Conservatives crashing of the economy". Yet, revised figures from the independent ONS reveal that the UK GDP recovered faster postCovid than many of our competitors and far better performing than Germany. The best performer by a long stretch is the USA. As for the 'cost of living crisis', it may have escaped Chris Vince's attention that this has been a global phenomenon, not just the UK as he attempts to make. The major component has been energy prices directly attributed to Putin's war of aggression in Ukraine causing gas prices to spiral as well as impacting on grain prices, both of which have nothing to do with the UK government. If he wishes to be considered as a parliamentary candidate, he ought to do some more research before spouting nonsense.

2023-09-02 08:50:16

Terry whilst you focus on personal insults and don't look at or deal or think about the outcomes and consequences of decisions made by either party then Harlow will continue to be ruined, overloaded by Essex, Epping, Herts and East Herts Councils actions and policies. Note Giltson Estate could have been built around Hertford and the vast Epping developments butt up to the south and north east of Harlow could have been built around Epping but Harlow is getting truly dumped upon. As for the concrete when the first school roof collapsed then all buildings using this kind of concrete should have been checked and a programme of replacement started. However, just like Grenfell the problem was known even at the time the cladding was applied yet even today hundreds if not thousands of buildings and residents are at risk because the government hasn't the gumption to slam the building industry in case the industry stops making large donations to the Tory party. The party system doesn't work because politicians choose to follow the party line rather than act on behalf of those they are meant to represent or their own consciences. If you blindly follow one party and rather than listen to arguments question the decisions and actions of every politician then looking around you can see the result, the kind of total mess both Labour and Conservative have made of the country, the environment and our town.

Gavin Carley
2023-09-02 09:43:50

In 2002 the BRE released further information on the performance issues of RAAC roof planks advising that, although in-service performance was judged to be satisfactory, it would be prudent to monitor their actual performance after a number of years. It was determined that the lifespan of RAAC roof planks was about 30 years. As this construction was last used in the 1980s, all RAAC roof decks have now exceeded their estimated lifespan and are required to be replaced in their entirety. So what did Tony Blair do? Nothing!

Mark Gough
2023-09-04 13:49:05

For heaven's sake stop with the Playground Politics. The whole lot are to blame. They all took their eyes off the ball. It's the same old Political dilemma - they all good at building new stuff, often at ridiculous high cost, but are utterly useless at maintenance! This is Asbestos all over again. Hopefully everyone can work together and sort this all out without the loss of life Asbestos was. Everyone can do hindsight - it's the here and now in the interests of our children that counts. Labour's School building program was stopped in 2010 cos, in the words of Liam Byrne "there is no money left", plus most it was being done using expensive Private Finance Initiatives, and the National Debt was already massive! Mark Gough - Reform UK

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