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Green
Party

Lib

Dems

The Politics of SAR

Demo at Hove Town Hall
click the photo to see
a map of the catchment areas

Cllr Juliet McCaffrey, a Labour member for Preston Park ward and a member of the Children Families and Schools Committee for some years, found herself in a quandary. The Labour Group of councillors, which run the council as a minority administration, were supporting the new catchment area system, but many of her ward constituents were very unhappy about it and had lobbied their councillors hard.

While a petition of more than a 1,000 signatures back in 2005 had originally demanded a change to the system, since the new proposals had become known a petition of more than 3,500 had been signed strongly opposing the new catchment areas. In particular, Cllr McCaffrey's constituents in the Prestonvile area of her ward (between Seven Dials and Preston Park) will now send their children to either Blatchington Mill or Hove Park, rather than Dorothy Stringer. Hove Park is four miles away, hardly a local school for the local children of Prestonville.

Cllr McCaffrey did what most political representatives do when faced with a choice between her party and her voters. She wisely took the side of her voters. Cllr McCaffrey was pulled off the commitee just before the meeting and 'substituted'; that is, another member of her party, Cllr Gill Mitchell, as it happened, took her place.

Cries of foul play and anti-democratic behaviour have gone up, but in fact this action by the leader of the Labour Group, Cllr Simon Burgess, was perfectly constitutional - if draconian. (Some may remember that no so long ago, Green councillor, Bill Randall, demanded that his group substitute him on the committee deciding the future of the King Alfred redevelopment, because he supported the plans while his group did not.)

Interestingly, Cllr Richard Mallender, the Green Party councillor on the committee and also a councillor for Preston Park ward, did not take the side of his constituents but that of his party which was lobbying hard for the new system. How all this will effect the vote in May, when the Greens hope to win more seats in the ward, I don't know, but I do know that in the pub after the meeting had ended Cllr McCaffrey was cheered as a hero by her constituents. I have no information on Cllr Mallender's reception.

Undoubtedly the competition between the Labour and Green Parties in Hanover & Elm Grove and in Queen's Park ward influenced their approach to the conclusions of the review. Cllr Burgess, the leader of the Labour Group, is after all a councillor for Queen's Park. Cllr Burgess would no doubt argue that on this issue the interests of his constituents and of the city as a whole coincided. But not everyone would agree.

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