Council slammed over schools consultation

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A CONCERNED member of the public has accused East Dunbartonshire Council of stifling the debate on the future of primnary schools.

Deborah Shipton says the local authority is failing to distribute enough questionnaries in local libraries for people to have their say on the options for primary school closures and mergers.

She says that while on a visit to Milngavie Library she was told they were asked to keep only a limited supply of the consultation questionnaires on the display stand.

Ms Shipton, of Strathblane Road, Milngavie, said: “Apparently members of the public were taking ‘a bundle’ and distributing them.

“The fact that this is seen as a bad thing demonstrates to me that the council fundamentally misunderstands how our civic society works or should work.

“Those distributing the questionnaire were not dictating how their fellow citizens should complete it they were just attempting to engage others in the debate.

“In our busy lives it is often only when we are confronted with the issues face on that we enter the debate.

“It is undeniable that there is a differential balance of power here.

“The council and councillors have more power on this issue than the individual resident.

“The influence of the population comes from the collective, therefore to discourage the distribution of questionnaires stifles the debate and takes away the only means that the population has to exert its influence.”

John Simmons, the council’s director of community services, said: “It is important that this process is not only fair, but that it is seen to be fair.

“In order that no-one, whatever their views on the consultation, could be seen to be unduly influencing the outcome, we have asked that people only take enough questionnaires for their own use or their families use.

“While we are sure that the intentions of individuals requesting bundles of copies are honourable, we would not want any one to lose confidence in the process of consultation.

“We understand that people care deeply about the future of our primary schools and we have made the questionnaire available to anyone who wishes to request a copy.

“It has been sent to 10,000 randomly selected households, it is available online, it can be filled out over the phone and a copy can be requested by phone.”

He added: “We are grateful to groups that are working hard to raise awareness of the consultation and we expect a very large response.

“We look forward to hearing the views of all residents of East Dunbartonshire.”