South Gloucestershire’s brand-new Scrutiny Commission has begun deciding its review topics for investigation, and Labour councillors are welcoming the adoption of two of their priorities, looking at deprivation and school standards.
Labour’s proposal for a study into national best practice for dealing with deprived areas was approved, despite one Conservative councillor stating that ‘it’s hardly Brixton’ in regard to South Gloucestershire’s Priority Neighbourhoods, areas that rank highly in the national indices of deprivation.
Labour Group’s Deputy Leader, Councillor Ian Boulton, proposed that the Commission should conduct a study into best practice by local councils for addressing the specific needs of Priority Neighbourhoods. He says:
“I was disappointed to hear a Conservative colleague say that they had never been to an area of deprivation in South Gloucestershire, as the council has designated five Priority Neighbourhoods based on Government indices of the most deprived areas nationally. I was astounded to hear these areas dismissed as ‘it’s hardly Brixton’.
The council’s Priority Neighbourhood approach recognises that we do have pockets of deprivation in South Gloucestershire. With ever limited funds, it is important that we learn what we can from other areas, so I welcome the Commission’s decision to back my proposal for a detailed investigation, with only one vote against.”
Labour was also successful in promoting another review topic, jointly with the Liberal Democrats, on improved educational attainment for all.
Councillor Gareth Manson, Labour Group’s Lead Member on Children & Skills, explains:
“South Gloucestershire secondary level pupils do not perform as well as they should at GCSE and beyond, based on their primary attainment and social background. Ofsted’s Regional Director advised councillors that our district’s results were his ‘number one concern’ when he addressed us back in April. He was also clear that the council could and should do more to make Academy Trusts account for themselves.
I believe this to be a top priority for the council and that this scrutiny review should bring increased urgency and focus to our role in working with partners to identify and tackle the problems.”