Protest called as Tory council plans to sell playing fields to fund school refurb while finding £30m to build new free school


GMB members are this evening staging a protest in Wandsworth against council plans to sell a school’s playing fields to pay for its own refurbishments, even as the authority finds £30m to pay for a new free school in the Borough.

They are demonstrating from 7pm outside Wandsworth Town Hall, London SW18 2PU, where the council’s Finance and Corporate Resources Overview is being asked to approve the sale of four acres of playing fields at Elliot School in Putney to pay for the refurbishment of the school which the council owns.

The union is calling on local residents to join the protest to ask that the refurbishment is funded in another way when the committee meets this evening. GMB will take the campaign against the sale of the school playing fields into the national arena as it has yet to be agreed by the Michael Gove Secretary of State for Education.

GMB senior officer Paul Maloney said:  “We’re calling the protest because the Tory council plans to transfer resources to the “well off” from the “less well off” in the borough. Selling four acres of playing fields to fund the refurbishment of one of the council’s own secondary schools while finding up to £30m to pay for a new Bolingbroke free school in the borough is an absolute scandal.

“These four acres are in an area of the borough where the average household income is less than 2/3rds of the London average. The council was well aware last year that Elliot needed investment when a £40.3 million refurbishment was cancelled by the newly elected government. Yet a few months after that the council announced that they were spending £13 million from reserves to buy the site in Battersea for a new school in an area where the household income are nearly double the London average.

“ARK is involved with both projects. ARK is a menace as far as education provision in Wandsworth is concerned. They had their fingers in the plans for an elite Bolingbroke free school until GMB opposition led to changes in the planned catchment area. Now they are up to their necks in these plans to sell these school playing fields. They claim to be on the side of the poor and disadvantaged kids. How does getting rid of playing space do that?

Wandsworth council is nothing short of a thundering disgrace in proposing the sale of these playing fields. GMB is calling on the public in Wandsworth to oppose this asset stripping of publicly owned land used as playing field. As well as sale of outdoor playing fields the plan will also lead to the knocking down of one of the largest indoor sports halls in London and the loss of this amenity to the community. These are listed buildings and GMB will fight their demolition. We will not be alone.

“Whatever education outcomes are agreed for Elliot, and whether or not it becomes an academy, none should involve the sale of playing fields. That should be common ground for all involved. We must unite to save these school playing fields. The Finance and Corporate Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee must scrap these plans tonight.”

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