I had a call today from a constituent who wanted to discuss school transport. It seems her child had won a place at Oakley School for pupils with special educational needs, on the Pembury Road in Tunbridge Wells.
Although my constituent was pleased that her child was able to benefit from the wonderful facilities at Oakley, she was unable to get her to school. Her husband is seriously ill, and she herself is unable to drive, but has other younger children who attend a school some distance away in the other direction.
Her child, at eleven years old, has a mental age of just over six. She has no conception of "stranger danger" which puts her at risk both from other people, and indeed in such basic actions as crossing the road. Let alone crossing the busy Pembury Road, a main artery into the town centre, where the nearest pedestrian island is some distance away, and the 120 metre walk from there to the school is devoid of pavement. An obvious winning case for an appeal, you would think. After all, her child is clearly in no position to walk to her new school.
She asked if I would represent her at the appeal; something County Councillors have been doing for years. This is something that County Councillors have been doing for years. Every year we get calls from worried and upset parents asking us to represent them at both admissions and transport appeal. And yet, although we can still appear at transport appeals, over the past couple of years the Government have changed the rules to prevent "elected representatives" from representing their constituents at admission appeals.
This simply isn't fair. We're letting our constituents down, because the fundamental job of elected representatives, be they Parliamentary, County, Borough or Parish, is to assist their electorate. Which is precisely what the Labour Government has ensured we are all powerless to do.
Whatever happened to democracy?