Cabinets shuffle out education committees

18th June 1999 at 01:00
Councils are anticipating radical changes to local government by scrapping 100-year-old institutions. Chris Bunting reports

EDUCATION committees across the country are being scrapped as councils move towards new "cabinet-style" structures.

The committees, which have had a key role in running the schools system for almost a century, are disappearing ahead of radical reforms to local government expected within the year.

The Government's bill on local government organisation and standards, which has yet to be submitted to Parliament, will introduce cabinets to run all council services. Councils, which have not been legally required to run education committees since 1993, are eager to anticipate reforms.

High casualty rates among education committees have been noted in the North of England, with Kirklees, Calderdale, Rotherham, Barnsley, and Gateshead already operating without them. Similar moves have been made in the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, East Sussex and Brighton and Hove.

But a spokesman for the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions said the Government did not know the full extent of the changes.

He said councils were working in a confused legal environment which had persuaded some to stick with old structures while others forged ahead with reforms.

"People are making changes but the difficulty is that until the legislation comes in there is a vacuum between what the Government would like them to do and what they are allowed to do by the old Acts," he said.

That has led to the creation of various hybrid structures. Wakefield has a new-style cabinet but has designated its full council as an education committee because it believes the law requires one.

Meanwhile, East Sussex has handed over education decision-making to its cabinet but set up a scrutiny panel of councillors, officials, church and school representatives to oversee its work.

Gateshead does not have a dedicated education committee or scrutiny panel and two members of its cabinet share responsibility for its education service.

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