Council leader criticises Labour group over schools statement

Cllr Patrick Harley has accused Cllr Sue Ridney of 'political point scoring' after the Labour spokesperson for Children's Services said she was angry about the Council’s haphazard approach to children's safety.

The Coseley East councillor was critical of the council cabinet, which she accused of having failed to provide any assurances about the safety of children returning to school following government guidance advising schools that classroom based lessons can resume from June 1st. Cllr Ridney said:

"The Council has failed to provide worried parents with any information about the measures that schools will put in place that will secure the safety of their children. It is not clear whether parents will be fined if they choose not to send their children to school.

"No plans have been shared that demonstrate how the children, who will keen to catch up with their friends who they haven’t seen for months, will be socially distanced.

"The Council has known for some time that at some point there would be the opportunity for children to return to school and during the period of the current lockdown, it has had the opportunity to make plans and implement the necessary changes to enable this to happen without exposing children to unnecessary risks.

"The safety of the Boroughs children should be the Council’s top priority [and] without any of the assurances about the issues we have highlighted, we do not feel that they will be.’’

However, on Black Country Week on Saturday morning, Cllr Harley refuted the accusations and suggested that the Labour group were using this as a tool for political gain, rather than working in the best interests of the community. Discussing the possibility of fines being implemented, he said:

"The release has misleading and inaccurate information. Even the government guidelines state that will not happen and we have reiterated that over and over again - we will not fine parents if they do not return children.

"On the issue of safety, our procurement department have secured relevant PPE for all our primary and secondary schools, special schools and academies, free of charge. We hope this will allay some of the fears parents may have.

"Nothing is risk free in life. We will have the same fears we had when we re-opened schools to allow the children of essential workers to attend whilst they carried out essential duties. It's not easy and nobody is professing to have all the answers, but we have to start somewhere."

Dudley schools are set to re-open, in line with government guidelines, from June 1st.


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