Waveney Tories fear Free School Backlash


Tories in Waveney are starting to fear for their seats as the backlash against the unpopular decision to approve Beccles Free School continues. The topic was discussed on BBC Radio Suffolk yesterday and p4 of today’s EADT has a whole article dedicated to making sure we know that Mark Bee is opposed to the school as well as a front page article reporting that the free schools are going to be half full (or is that half-empty?).

Peter Aldous the Waveney MP with the tiny majority did produce a very good paper against the school but sadly when it counted did not have the clout in Westminster to stop the school going ahead. But given his wafer thin majority and the enduring popularity of Labour rival Bob Blizzard it might be that Aldous was not expected to hold Waveney in 2015 anyway.

But it is local Tory councillors that are getting most worried. With County Council elections next year and District Elections the following year this will be a chance for electors to show in the only way they can their anger at being ignored by politicians.

For some Tories this will appear unfair but they do support a party that thinks that decisions on education should be taken in London by Government Ministers and bureaucrats who would struggle to find Beccles on a map… This was never going to work.

But the most high profile potential victim must be Mark Bee himself. The Leader of Suffolk County Council has certainly made it known that her does not support the school at Beccles but the County’s policy on free schools has contributed to the whole mess we are now in. In fairness to Mark Bee though he has taken a strong and influential line on the school (suggesting parents “vote with their feet and don’t attend) and this combined with his local popularity will I expect see him comfortably returned.

However some of this colleagues are not likely to be so lucky and the Tories may well lose control of Waveney Council as well as the parliamentary seat.

What happened in Beccles went beyond just ignoring voters. It was rather like sticking a proverbial two fingers up to them whilst shouting “we know best”.

With Waveney’s Scrutiny Committee set to meet a second time to disucss the free school on 6th August next week Mark Bee and Peter Aldous will set out the steps they tool to oppose the school but the DfE will once again fail to attend to account for their actions. It is this exercise of power without accountability that has angered voters so much.

Someone is going to be held to account - even if it is someone who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time...
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