Backlash at polling station decision

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Parents at a Mansfield school have slammed a decision to close it for a day while it is used as a polling station later this year.

Last week Chad reported that Labour group members at Mansfield District Council had been accused of putting votes above education, for ignoring calls for a polling station to be moved from Wainwright Primary Academy, in Harrop White Road, to a nearby scout hut.

Staff, parents and governors at the school had petitioned the authority - saying that using the school as a polling station disrupted education for more than 350 pupils and caused parents childcare problems.

It had been proposed that the polling station for the European Elections in May be moved to the scout hut - a five minute walk away.

But despite Mansfield District Council staff saying that the scout hut was an ideal location for use as a polling station, Labour politicians voted on mass to keep polling at the school.

Ellen Longmate (37), of Raleigh Road who has two children at the school, said: “Both my husband and I work full time so the closure of the school means that I now have to find extra childcare once again for my children.

“If there is a perfectly good and functional area to use for polling why can’t this be used?

“Whilst I understand that there are older members of the community that cannot access this as easily, there are also similar issues for those members of the public that live further away from the school.”

Meanwhile resident Philip Pratt said parents should think about tactical voting against Labour members as a way of venting their frustration.

He said: “I think the polling station should be moved to stop the disruption for children and parents, who will have to find child cover or take a day off work.

“It is typical of the Labour councillors - there is a solution to this if all the parents involved decide to vote for another party, that would make them reconsider next time.

At the authority’s last meeting on 17th December headteacher Michele Bailey was told by Coun Stuart Richardson, who chairs the council committee, that the scout hut was too far for some elderly residents who live near the school to walk.

He also said that using the school as a polling station was a good way of teaching youngsters about democracy.

Independent forum member Coun Stephen Garner said the Labour group had put securing votes above the needs of parents and children.

He said: “I pressed for the scout hut to be commissioned for this purpose but to no avail. Labour councillors voted for the Wainwright Academy to stay as a polling station, ignoring the wishes of the school and local parents.

Meanwhile, Carr Bank ward councillor Christine Smith added: “It was stated at the review that some people prefer to cast their votes personally at polling stations.

“Carr Bank ward has a high concentration of bungalows where elderly and disabled people live on and, in the vicinity of Sherwood Hall Road.

“No concern at all was shown for these people whose polling station is at the bottom of the long and very steep Ravensdale Road. “

Staff at the school told Chad that using Wainwright Academy as a polling station also coincides with the annual SATS exams for Year 6 students, and fall at the worst possible time in the education calendar.

They also said that democracy is taught to youngsters by electing students to the school council.

But Labour Group Leader Martin Lee denied that the decision had been taken due to party politics and insisted that politicians had followed the correct procedure.

He said: “This is not a party political issue although there are some who are trying to make it that. This decision has been through the proper process and this is the decision that has been taken.”

However, Steve Yemm, chairman of Mansfield Labour Party is calling for a re-think next time.

He said: “At some point there will need to be some calm reflection on solving the problem. I have every sympathy with the parents and staff at the Wainwright Academy - all of our daughters were educated at the school and as a parent I understand the concerns.

“Personally I think it would make sense for the Labour Group of councillors and Mansfield District Council to look at this again after May’s European election.”