Cabinet member takes council to High Court over schools admissions (From Richmond and Twickenham Times)
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Cabinet member takes Richmond Council to High Court over schools admissions
A cabinet member has stood down after taking Richmond Council to the High Court over failures to find her daughter a suitable school place.
Councillor Virginia Morris said she has battled with the council for the past eight months to try to apply for a preferred school for her four-year-old, but has made no progress, being offered only what she claimed was not a suitable place.
She said: “We are not satisfied that they have dealt with our application in the correct manner so we are now challenging them on this issue. As a result the leader of the council has asked me to stand down as a cabinet member.”
The news comes a week after the council defended its admissions policies after calls from parents and fair admissions campaigners to address the growing demand for school places in the borough.
Coun Morris said her case was unique and not driven by the “black hole” situation some families face, but said another 100 children may be affected by her problem, which is down to admissions criteria.
Coun Morris said she was asked to submit extra evidence to prove their application for a school place, but would not go into further detail at this stage.
She said: “Since we have pursued court action we have discovered that what has happened to us has also affected many families within the borough.
“Maybe this way we can not only get answers for our daughter but also enable those other families who have been affected to understand what happened to them.”
The mother-of-two described her experience as horrific and said she was driven to suing the council as a last resort.
Conservative Coun Morris was elected in 2002, 2006 and 2010 and is ward councillor for East Sheen, a position she will continue to hold.
Since 2010 she has been cabinet member for environment, planning, parks and highways, a role that will be taken over by Councillor Pamela Fleming.
Leader of the opposition Councillor Stephen Knight said it was a huge blow for the cabinet to lose a senior member and said it was extraordinary for her to take to court the council she helped to run.
Leader of the council Councillor Nicholas True said he was sorry to see Coun Morris leave the cabinet but said he believed it was appropriate given that she intended to sue the council.
He said: “Virginia must be free to pursue the remedies that she believes to be right, but under the principle of collective responsibility a member of the cabinet is responsible for upholding the established policies and actions of council officers.
“Virginia has played a very significant part in making major improvements to Richmond’s planning and environmental policies and has led the important Uplift projects across the borough, for which I thank her sincerely.”
The news comes two months after Twickenham Riverside councillor Scott Naylor left the Tories to join UKIP because of what he described as the “melt down of the association and total disconnect between local issues and any interests on local issues”.
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