Fears for services as austerity kicks in

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PUBLIC services could be ripped out of South Holland as a knock-on effect of budget cuts, according to worried district councillors.

Influential members of the authority fear that plans to close the St Guthlac School in Crowland could be the first of many threats to services in South Holland that need to be fought.

At last week’s full council meeting councillors agreed to back a motion in favour of saving the Crowland secondary school, but also widened that motion to vow to fight any planned cuts to the district’s services.

Council leader Gary Porter said: “There is increasingly a threat of quite a lot of public sector infrastructure being withdrawn from South Holland.

“The school could well be the first of many. This council ought to object, as a matter of principle, to any piece of state infrastructure to be withdrawn from South Holland until someone comes to explain a business case to us.

“This could be the first of quite a few dominoes if we are not careful. South Holland is sometimes seen as an easy target for bodies to be taken out.”

Coun Paul Przyszlak, who is also a Lincolnshire county councillor and is campaigning to keep the St Guthlac open, said he fears the knock on effect of current plans could see several small primary schools axed.

The plan would be to move South View Primary School into the St Guthlac building if the academy plans go through.

Coun Przyszlak fears that, coupled with a review of catchment areas, could spell the end for schools in Shepeau Stow, Deeping St Nicholas or Cowbit.

Coun Przyszlak said: “Everything is being drip fed - it’s a totally incomplete consultation. Everyone needs to be aware that it could affect your patch next.”

The motion on the St Guthlac School was proposed by Coun Bryan Alcock who said: “Losing a school rips the heart out of a town.

“With no secondary school, families with children are unlikely to move to Crowland and there’s already anecdotal evidence that some families are thinking of moving away as a result of the rumours about the closure of the school.”

He feels the county council’s lack of promotion of the school has not allowed it to achieve its potential.

The plan is to close the St Guthlac as part of the deal to transform the George Farmer Technology and Language College in Holbeach into an academy.

Couns Francis Biggadike and Rita Rudkin, who represent Holbeach, abstained from the vote on the motion.

Coun Biggadike said many pupils already have to travel distances to attend Spalding Grammar School.

He said: “If, at the end of the day, it provides the best possible education then that’s the way it has to go.”

Coun Rudkin urged fellow members to consider the best for the education of the district’s children.

Andy Breckon, Assistant Director of Children’s Services, said the St Guthlac closure plans are merely a proposal at this stage and stressed that no decision has been made.

He said: “We have no plans at this time to relocate the primary school but will consider that option if appropriate.

“Any future plans to relocate South View Primary School would only be taken if it provided the school with better facilities than is currently the case on its present site - there would be no intention to increase the capacity of the school.

“Other local schools would not be affected as we would not increase the number of places within the school.

“The council has reiterated that there are no plans to close children’s centres in the county at this time.

“Similarly, there are no plans to close any static library sites at this time.”