[UPDATED: See end of item for updates.]
Strange times at York House. In a short and to-the-point press release that raises as many questions as it answers, Richmond Council announced that Virginia Morris, Cabinet Member of the Environment, was being replaced in that role by Pamela Fleming “with immediate effect”.
The reason? Nope, not a defection to UKIP or anything like that, but rather because “she has indicated that she intends to commence legal action against the Council”. Do what? Yep, that’s what it says. It goes on to quote Council Leader (and her fellow East Sheen ward councillor) Lord True as he points out that in the circumstances it would not be appropriate for her to continue with her cabinet post and thanks her for the work she’s done up to this point.
And what is this legal action about we ask ourselves. It would be rude to pry. Rude but interesting and possibly even relevant. And maybe even relevant to Twickenham! Is it a cabinet matter, a council matter or a private matter? Needless to say the Press Release doesn’t go into that kind of thing. But do stay tuned for any further developments.
UPDATE 1:It turns out that the reason for the legal action is school places, or rather the absence thereof. Cllr Morris claims that despite battling hard for many months the Council have still not provided a suitable school place for her four year old daughter. She is quoted in the R&TT as describing her experience of dealing with the Council on this matter as ‘horrific’ and that legal action is a last resort. Obviously it’s an important personal issue for Cllr Morris but also a potentially embarrassing one for El Brute who’ve placed a lot of PR emphasis on their schools admissions policy and the choice it offers. There’s more about it all in the R&TT.
UPDATE 2: And now the Evening Standard reveals that it’s all about the address used for allocating places. Apparently Cllr Morris’s daughter was not offered a place at the oversubscribed Sheen Mount Primary despite it being “50 metres from her front door”. It seems the Morris family have been living there for 9-10 months while their Hampton home is being developed. The child was offered a place at Buckingham Primary as the Hampton address is the one on which council tax is being paid. So, are El Brute just being brutish? Or is the Council simply applying its admissions policies fairly? How long do you need to live 50 metres from a school to stand a good chance of getting a place, anyway? And if your house in Hampton is being developed why move several miles away to rent a house next to a very desirable school in East Sheen? What happens if you then move back to Hampton once the work is complete? Do you give up that valuable place and have to ‘settle’ for the local primary? Like the LBRuT Press Release, the Evening Standard article raises more questions than it answers.
There may be plenty of good reasons behind all this but at the moment it’s all rather confusing. Confusing and interesting.