A school for the disabled facing hefty budget cuts has been mentioned in the House of Lords after its situation was publicised by the Times Series.
Mapledown School, in Claremont Road, Cricklewood, has had its budget for vital after-school clubs and half term play schemes slashed by 25 per cent from today (April 1) by Barnet Borough Council.
The authority says the cuts have come directly from the Government but the administration has been heavily criticised for its decision to cut council tax by one per cent in the build-up to May’s local elections.
Lord Bill McKenzie, Labour’s communities and local government spokesperson, raised the matter in the House of Lords budget debate on Thursday.
Speaking to the house about the school, he said: “As well as educating the children it also supports their carers. Because of cuts to the council, passed on by the council, the school has had a reduction of funding of some 25 per cent with heavy restrictions on the services that it can provide.
“So in winding up, perhaps the Minister could give that school some sort of message about when it is expected that it might be able to share in the benefits of recovery."
Lord McKenzie was asked to raise the matter by Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Finchley and Golders Green Sarah Sackman, who met with parents of the school after reading the Times Series exclusive last week.
Barnet’s Labour group voted in favour of the Conservative’s one per cent council tax cut, but Ms Sackman described the school’s situation as “indefensible”, insisting the money could be found elsewhere.
She said: “Conservative councillors have made a political choice to remove desperately-needed care from some of the most deserving children and families in Barnet at the same time as refusing to cut their own councillors' attendance allowances.
"The Government promised health and education would be ring-fenced and protected from spending cuts and Michael Gove needs to explain what has gone wrong in Barnet."
Schools portfolio holder Councillor Reuben Thompstone last week said the authority’s “hands are tied”, while Tory group leader Cllr Richard Cornelius defended the decision to lower council tax, insisting the council could not cover every central government cut.
But leader of the Barnet Labour Group, Cllr Alison Moore, said: “This is a terribly hard-hearted decision, and the truth is that something could be done about it.
“Barnet’s Conservative councillors could reduce councillors allowances by £45,000 to pay for these after school clubs and holiday play schemes to continue if they thought it was a priority. Scrapping the council’s Barnet First magazine would save £75,000 – they could do that. It really is a question of priorities, and the Tories don’t seem to have the right set of priorities.”