Protesters against the proposed closure of Gartsherrie Primary School in Coatbridge have referred North Lanarkshire Council’s Learning & Leisure department to the Information Commissioner after documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act were not received.
Parents Association Chairman Kay Rowat requested a copy of the controversial building survey, being used as part of the proposal to close the school, on December 2nd. Under Freedom of Information regulations North Lanarkshire Council had until Friday to release the document.
After the deadline passed Mrs. Rowat complained to the council and referred the matter to the Information Commissioner. Mrs. Rowat said ‘We have followed the correct procedures after our verbal requests for this document were refused. The information held in the survey is a crucial part of the council’s recommendation to close our school yet they have refused us details. Officials haven’t been able to confirm exactly how old the survey is, only that it is around eight years old. We would like to see it to confirm exactly when it was done so that we can make accurate representations to the consultation.’
Mrs. Rowat also requested a copy of minutes taken at the public meeting held at the school on 30th November 2009. She said ‘I feel it is important to review these minutes as these will be used by the learning & leisure committee members while they are making their decision as to which way to vote. We really must make sure these minutes are an accurate reflection of the meeting. I asked Ron Dufeur(Education Officer) for a copy when I met with him and was told I was not entitled to it, but he couldn’t tell me why not. You have to wonder what it is they are trying to hide.’
The deadline for submissions to the consultation is Friday and objectors are concerned the information is being deliberately withheld from them until after this date. Audrey McFarlane, secretary of the parents association, said ‘I have been surprised at the lack of cooperation from North Lanarkshire Council. We have struggled to get any information from them and what they have supplied has been vague at best. It seems they are deliberately withholding the items we need, even when doing so breaks the law. We need the building survey and the minutes of the public meeting before the 15th and time is running out now. I fully expect the information to arrive on the 16th so we can’t use it to make our case for keeping the school open.’
The proposal has proven unpopular with residents of Coatbridge with over 5,500 letters of objection being received by learning & leisure services so far.
For further information contact Kay Rowat on 07885 231953
Copies of requests and confirmation of requests are available