For those of us who love consensus (and that includes most members of the public) Darlington's political parties have shown admirable restraint by agreeing to work together on the Borough's Building Schools for the Future bid.
Cllrs. Williams, Scott and Swainston, for Labour, the Tories and LibDems respectively, requested a meeting with the Minsiter to press Darlington's case for the much-needed investment.
The stakes are high - £42 million high, to be precise, the cost of remodelling the outdated Branksome, Hurworth and Longfield schools.
The first fruit of the spirit of co-operation has received a dusty answer from the Coalition, however. Michael Gove, the Secretary of State, has said that he is just too busy to bother himself with this at the moment. Well, ok, what a civil servant wrote was "unfortunately, owing to pressures on his diary, the Secretary of State is unable to meet with you at present." But you get the idea.
It's a shame, because it's good to see the local political establishment, in the shape of the 3 parties, together with schools, parents and pupils working together to a shared objective.
Elsewhere, more evidence has emerged of the Coalition's antipathy to the North East in the recently announced cuts to education spending. ANEC (the Asssociation of North East Councils) states that the Department for Education’s grant reduction to local government is to be taken from the Area Based Grant (ABG) in 2010/11, which amounts to £311 million.
The proposed cut to the ABG by a standard percentage of 24% will amount to a reduction of £19.982 million in the North East, which equates to £39.14 per child, compared with an England average of £28.92 per child - a reduction of over £10 per child more and an extra £5.2 million across the region.
Reacting to the announcement Cllr Paul Watson, Chair of the Association of North East Councils, said: “Such reductions and disparities in funding appear to run counter to the Coalition Government’s commitment to fairness, the need to address and eradicate child poverty across the country and measures aimed at reducing regional disparities. We are, therefore, concerned that the level of in-year reductions being proposed will place an even greater burden on children in areas facing higher levels of deprivation.
“We all recognise the need for the Government to make efficiency savings in the national interest and are willing to work in partnership with Government to achieve these. What we must avoid, however, is spending reductions having a disproportionate impact on this area of the country. All councils in the North East will have difficulties in achieving the level of in-year reductions we now face, which will have a significant impact on service delivery."
Indeed. The Northern Echo's headline about Cameron targetting the North East for 'special treatment' before the election is now looking particularly prescient.