Time running out for outdoor education centres
Time is running out. Wiltshire Council plan to close Braeside and Oxenwood outdoor education centres in August.
The deadline for alternative providers to put in bids to keep the centres open expires next week. The bids will then be judged on criteria of 'best value'. But if past precedent is anything to go by, Wiltshire Council will have already made the decision to close these centres and sell off these assets to the 'highest bidder' and not the 'best value' bidder.
Local Authority finances are complicated and we, the public, are not expected to understand what 'best value' means. But we do. We understand that 'best value' is not just about extracting as much value in financial terms as possible from the sale of these assets, but also taking into account the value these centres create in social and educational terms.
Wiltshire Council has a statutory obligation to consider how 'best value' can be met and in this duty they are required to consult council taxpayers, those who use the service and local community organisations.
This is not optional. It is written into government guidelines on current legislation. Wiltshire Council has not done this.
They are avoiding democratic accountability in decision making and they have been doing this for years.
On Tuesday, 22 May there will be a demonstration on the steps at County Hall in Trowbridge to protest. Nearly 16,000 people have signed a petition opposing these closures and this petition will be handed in when the full Council meets at 10.30am.
Chair Devizes Constituency Labour Party