by Wetherby Liberal Democrats on 29 October, 2019
The rebuilding of Wetherby High School was named as the No 1 priority for Wetherby Liberal Democrats as David Hopps launched his campaign ahead of a by-election in the town for Leeds City Council next month.
The by-election for the Wetherby Ward will take place on December 12 – also General Election day – after the death of Conservative ward councillor Gerald Wilkinson.
Local Lib Dems have ramped up the pressure on the Conservatives to “play fair” by Wetherby after the Government this week [October 28] invited applications from Academies and Sixth Forms for a share of a £400m Conditions Improvement Fund to patch up school buildings in need of repair.
Hopps, who has lifted the Lib Dem vote in Wetherby from 5% to 24% in two years, said: “Tories have been quite happy to see good traditional schools like Wetherby and Royds overlooked for essential investment in their school buildings while pumping millions into Academy chains and ‘free schools’.
There have always been little hints that if Wetherby left the State sector it would be rewarded with the funds it needs. That is s shameful misuse of children’s education for political ends. This neglect of Wetherby has gone on far too long.”
Wetherby High School and Royds School in Rothwell have long been identified by all political parties in Leeds as the two schools in the city most in need of attention.
“Campaigning for Wetherby to get a fair deal is my No 1 priority,” Hopps said. “We won the fight for the survival of Boston Spa School, when Labour wanted to close it and sell the land for building but Wetherby must not suffer as a consequence.
“The Tories have been making all manner of spending commitments as the country braces itself for a General Election.
“Well, it’s about time some of that money headed to Wetherby. We have repeatedly pressed for the school to receive the funding it deserves and this December by-election is a chance to harry the Conservatives at every opportunity to play fair by Wetherby.”
Hopps said that a population explosion in Wetherby – 800 houses are planned at Racecourse Approach on the edge of the town over the next decade – makes a £10m refit of Wetherby High School more pressing than ever.
With a “Good” Ofsted rating and a strong commitment to student welfare, a refit would be the final piece in the jigsaw.
“Wetherby High School has much to commend it and deserves a chance to make further progress,” Hopps said.
“But this is not just about the needs of our children, as important as they are, this is also about the needs of our town. An improved gymnasium and main hall can also be an asset for our community and help to offset the desperate lack of such facilities in the town after a lifetime of Conservative rule.”
Leeds Liberal Democrats have been formally pressing the ruling Labour group in council meetings as to when progress can be expected.
Labour councillor Jonathan Pryor, executive member for learning at Leeds City Council, warned in January that “Leeds schools are at breaking point” and that the city had a repairs backlog of 100m. He stressed that the entire main school block at Wetherby was in need of rebuilding.
Department of Education figures show that Leeds received £6.7 this year as a “School Condition Allocation” for local authorities to invest in their schools for which they are responsible.