The contributions to this debate have exposed the disagreements between residents, based on the understandable consideration of whether their children will be able to go to the school or not as a result of the changes.
I regarded this as a local issue which should be settled by Councillors. They have the power to make the decision, and the officers and consultants to help them make it. As MP I am given no power and no such assistance to settle these matters.
During the consultation process by the Council I did intervene at the request of constituents. Appreciating the division of opinion between constituents depending on where they lived, I confined my intervention to arguing that the Council should maximise the number of Wokingham Borough children attending. Reading children can go to their expensive new Academy recently provided. I intervened on this issue because it was the view of most of my constituents. I needed to counter the representations made by the MP for Reading East who was putting forward the views of some of his constituents who wished to send their children to Maiden Erlegh.
The decision to overturn the Council’s decision by the Secretary of State has meant that a local matter has become a matter settled nationally. The losers from the Secretary of State’s decision are naturally upset by his action. I am unhappy that the Secretary of State has interfered, as I have been assured by Ministers that they believe in localism and wish elected Councils to make these sorts of decisions. I am therefore taking this up with him, as I wish to understand why it happened and whether this will be a future pattern, the statements on localism notwithstanding.
It is for the Council to decide if it wishes to take legal action to challenge the revised decision. Councillor Pauline Jorgensen is asking a question in Council and will be following up. It would take a successful legal challenge to overturn the latest decision.