Leader says site is not needed
ANY hope that County Hall would have a change of heart and commit millions into buying Rolle College for use as a post-16 college and adult education centre evaporated last week. At the council s scrutiny committee, members voted 10-3 to uphold a cabinet
ANY hope that County Hall would have a change of heart and commit millions into buying Rolle College for use as a post-16 college and adult education centre evaporated last week.
At the council's scrutiny committee, members voted 10-3 to uphold a cabinet decision not to buy the Douglas Avenue site.
This reversed a previous pledge made by the former Lib Dem administration, before they lost power in last summer's election.
The decision made by the new council was called to account by the committee last month - and community groups, community college governors and members of the public made a strong case for the purchase.
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However, two of the decision makers, education cabinet member Christine Channon and council leader John Hart, weren't available and the meeting was rescheduled.
This time 100 members of the public were at the meeting, but were not allowed to speak and Cllrs Hart and Channon justified why they weren't going to pursue the purchase.
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Cllr Hart attacked the main argument for buying the site made by community college governors - that with the school leaving age increasing to 19 by 2013 and increases in population, by 2014 the existing sixth form would increase by almost 40 per cent.
He produced his own statistics which he said showed the student population would actually fall by 60 places each year.
"We are talking about no major surge in numbers," he said. "I hear and see vastly inflated numbers; I have heard 300 or something in that order.
"I do not recognise these figures, they are complete nonsense."
He added: "I don't think there is the demand, not all the children want to do the courses offered by the community college.
"My role is to make sure every child in Devon has an opportunity and the truth is many don't necessarily want to be educated in Exmouth and may like to go somewhere else.
"I cannot justify spending this amount of money on something I do not believe educationally is required.
"I don't think it is right to spend one per cent of council tax money on premises we don't need."
Cllr Christine Channon said that the campaign to buy the campus was driven by sentimentality: "I am very sympathetic to the people of Exmouth; there is a lot of passion and a lot of sentimentality, I suppose.
"This decision was based purely on educational reasons.