'We cannot allow another generation of pupils in our town to be failed,' says Berwick councillor as petition calls for £40million schools investment
A petition has been launched calling for a £40million commitment to a new school building programme in Berwick.
The petition has been created by Cllr Georgina Hill, member for Berwick East on Northumberland County Council.
The authority has allocated £19.8million in its draft budget and medium term financial plan towards the Berwick programme.
Last year's budget set out expenditure of £15million over three years but the latest programme has shifted the initial £6.4million all the way into 2023-2024, with no spending at all earmarked for 2021-22 or 2022-23.
The delay has infuriated Cllr Hill.
She said: “The current investment and extent of the ambition is inadequate and the whole approach is wrong. We cannot allow another generation of pupils in our town to be failed.”
The petition has gathered 432 signatures so far.
It is calling for the council to reverse the decision to delay the new school buildings programme in Berwick for two years; to bring forward and increase the total budget commitment to £40million-plus; and for the draft budget, which will be considered on February 24, to be amended so that the final budget reflects this.
Cllr Hill says the council’s initial £15million budget was meant to be the ‘starting point’ with the eventual investment closer to the sum invested in new schools elsewhere in Northumberland such as Hexham and Ponteland.
She added: “The vision was for other new schools to be built on the existing, large, Berwick Academy site creating a multi-school, education campus.
“Nothing has progressed since then and the conversations, which have taken place, have been bogged down with the issue around school reorganisation and with the county council expecting the local schools to come up with the definitive plan.
“School reorganisation may follow but is not a necessity or precursor for schools to be able to co-locate on the same site, sharing facilities and greatly reducing their running costs.”
By contrast, the funding has previously been welcomed by Berwick’s two Tory councillors, Catherine Seymour and Gregah Roughead.
Cllr Guy Renner-Thompson, cabinet member for children’s services, also pointed out that the proposed budget represented an increase in funding from £15million to £19.8million – with the potential for more to come.
The petition can be signed at: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/schools-in-berwick-need-ps40m-investment-now