Councillors met at Woolwich Town Hall last night for the first full council meeting since the summer recess.
Royal Hill school building
The Victorian school building in Royal Hill which has latterly been used as an annexe for Charlton Special School could be returned to use as a primary school, it was revealed.
In a written response to a question from Cllr Spencer Drury (Conservative, Eltham North), the Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, Cllr Jackie Smith (Labour, Thamesmead Moorings), stated that the council "is considering plans for the reopening of the school to meet the growing demand for primary school places in west Greenwich".
The John Roan School
Councillor Alex Wilson (Conservative, Blackheath Westcombe) asked for an update on the re-building of The John Roan School. A written reply from Councillor Jackie Smith revealed that a design team was in place, the process to appoint a building contractor was "well advanced" and work was expected to start in approximately 12 months.
Former Liberal Democrat Paul Webbewood used the opportunity of Public Questions to ask council leader, Councillor Chris Roberts, if he had ever slept at Woolwich Town Hall. "No", replied Cllr Roberts.
Cllr Alex Wilson (Conservative, Blackheath Westcombe) said that the decision not to contribute to this year's Blackheath Fireworks felt like being "a dinner guest who has walked away at the last minute without helping to pay his share of the bill", and asked for the cut to be justified by the Council.
Deputy Leader of the Council, Cllr Peter Brooks (Labour, Thamesmead Moorings) said there were "65 million reasons" to justify the decision, alluding to the £65 million the council expects to have to cut. Cllr Brooks said that the share of the costs for Greenwich Council was £37,000 which equated to "a job a bit". He said he was "given about two days in the middle of the recess to come up with this decision" and it wasn't a decision taken "lightheartedly".
Disposal of land in Commerell Street
The council resolved to try and sell two houses it owns in Commerell Street. The council has estimated that selling the land will raise £550,000 which it intends to spend on its new Housing Delivery Vehicle, financing decant costs in Kidbrooke and Woolwich and other urgent capital works on council-owned homes. The council will need to gain permission from the Secretary of State for Local Government before proceeding with the disposal.
Nouvelles Racines Free School
A Conservative motion welcoming the attempt to set up a new free school teaching the International Baccalaureate was debated by councillors.
Cllr Dermot Poston (Conservative, Eltham North) praised the "vision" of parents and teachers behind the school who he said had a "passion" for educating children "in depth".
Cllr Adam Thomas (Conservative, Eltham South) said that the parents and teachers proposing the free school wanted to "make a difference to the education of children in this borough".
Cabinet member in charge of schools, Cllr Jackie Smith said it was "wholly unfair to debate in this chamber one particular proposal that is still being assessed by the Department of Education".
She said that the council was "corncerned about free schools" which she said had "too many unknowns". She pointed that the borough already a diverse range of schools which within the local authority "family".
She said she didn't wish to debate the merits of the IB but didn't think funding should be taken away from other children in the borough to "set up a bit of elitism".
Cllr David Grant (Labour, Greenwich West) accused Greenwich Conservatives of "jumping on Mr Gove's decidedly rickety bandwagon" and said their motion was "trivial and foolish".
Cllr Alex Grant (Labour, Blackheath Westcombe) - himself a former student of the International Baccalaurate - said it was a good course but not a "magic bullet". He also commented that there was "nothing to prevent any state school in Greenwich from starting to do the International Baccalaurate". He said that as a "through school" catering for all ages, he thought it would be "overwhelming" for young children to be sharing a playground and school building with 17 and 18 year olds.
Cllr Nigel Fletcher (Conservative, Eltham North) said that there was a "mindset" within the Labour group that they could allow experimentation and parent involvement with schools "but only up to a point" because "at the end of the day, the council knows best".