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Steering a tight ship to victory

Education cuts may have played their part in last week's devastating Tory local election defeats but not, apparently, in Solihull, where Conservatives managed to retain overall control with the support of an Independent Ratepayers' group.

Geoffrey Wright, Solihull's education committee chairman for the past 12 years, said he believed the fact that voters were broadly satisfied with the local education service had helped swing the election.

The council had succeeded in keeping education cuts to a minimum and had increased nursery services this year. Overall, there had been a 2.5 per cent cut in funding this year but 1 per cent of that had been advertised from last year, thus minimising the effect on schools.

Also, the authority had funded 2.2 per cent of the teachers' pay award, leaving schools with only 0.5 per cent to find.

"We explained what we were planning to do well in advance and on the whole, people accepted that," he said. "The worst effects of reductions haven't hit Solihull. We have a very tightly-run service and this is reflected in the fact that we have only one GM school."

But Nick Stephens, secretary of the Labour group, said that the main impact of cuts would not be felt until the next financial year.

"Teacher redundancies will go up, building work that needs doing will be put off, youth centres will be downgraded . . . I think a lot more people will be voting for Labour next time around," he said.

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