78% in an independent poll said build Saddleworth School on the existing site in Uppermill

(source: Saddleworth School Poll on Saddleworth News)

90% of those asked are signing our door to door petition

Over 3000 people have signed a door to door petition asking for the EFA and OMBC to build new Saddleworth School on the existing site in Uppermill and it's growing

Come and JOIN THEM
Sign our online petition TODAY

Freedom of Information request - Debbie Abrahams MP

Following intense lobbying by the Save Diggle Action Group (SDAG), and growing protests across Saddleworth, the Education Funding Agency (EFA) announcement on 7th June 2014 that a detailed feasibility study was underway looking at four options in both Uppermill and Diggle.

However Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, was quoted as saying in the Saddleworth News on 22nd July 2014:
"I am glad that the Government and EFA are undertaking these additional feasibility studies as I requested."

This prompted one Diggle resident to write to Ms Abrahams requesting supporting information from her through the Freedom of Information Act to back up this statement.

Their initial letter, Ms Debbie Abrahams' response and their subsequent reply are detailed below.

Her constitutent is still awaiting a response back from her to their follow up letter of the 27th August 2014.

27th July 2014

Ms D Abrahams MP
Houses of Parliament

Dear Ms Abrahams

RE: Saddleworth School Freedom Of Information Request

I recently read a report in the Saddleworth News that the EFA are undertaking additional feasibility studies relating to Saddleworth School due to requests from yourself.

eg "I am glad that the Government and EFA are undertaking these additional feasibility studies as I requested."

Under the FOI legislation please supply :-
- copies of all correspondence between your Office and both the Department for Education and the EFA relating to the Saddleworth School rebuilding project.
- copies of any minutes of meetings with the same bodies on the same subject.

I look forward to receiving them at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely

Mr Marshall

5th August 2014, Dear Mr Marshall, Thank you for your recent letter, received 29th July, regarding Saddleworth School. You may not be aware that the Freedom of Information Act 200 only applies to public authorities, and Members of Parliament are not public authorities for the purposes of the Act. However, with regard to my contact with the EFA and Department for Education, I welcome the EFA's move away from the intransigent position it took when I met with them and the School's Minister in November 2013.  I am not aware of the existence of my minutes of this meeting. At that meeting I asked for additional funding from the EFA and Department for Education for the new build and also raised some concerns that had emerged from local people about the proposed location of the school, particularly at the front of the site so close to Huddersfield Road. The Minister and EFA representatives made it clear at the meeting that there was no additional funding and that it was the responsibility of Oldham Council alone to find a site, but it must be within the budget allocated by the EFA. As you know, I have repeatedly raised concerns expressed to me by consituents about the proposed site at Diggle with Oldham Council.  I am pleased that the EFA are now actually willing to look at the sites themselves and judge their feasibility, following concerns expressed to them, the Council and others by a wide range of local people (as well as myself at our meeting in November 2013) and look forward to reading their published report. Please be assured that I will continue to monitor the new school's development as it progresses although as you know, I have no formal role in the planning proces and am not invloved in the detailed discussions. Your sincerely, Debbie Abrahams MP, Oldham East and Saddleworth

27th August 2014

Ms D Abrahams MP
Houses of Parliament

Dear Ms Abrahams

RE: Saddleworth School Freedom Of Information Request

I am in receipt of your reply dated 5th August.
Although it is difficult to think of a more Public Office than that of an elected MP, I apologise for thinking that the FOI legislation would apply.

I am aware that you met with the EFA and the DoE back in November 2013.
As a retired senior manager in a large organisation, I find it inconceivable that this meeting was not minuted given its level and subject matter.
At best I consider this highly unprofessional behaviour as it would appear that there is no public record of what was discussed or the stance of its participants.

In paragraph 5, you state "as you are aware I have repeatedly raised concerns etc etc" Unfortunately I am not aware of any effort made by yourself, beyond the meeting referred to above, on behalf of the residents of Saddleworth.
This was the reason for the FOI request in the first instance and judging by your letter you are still unable to provide any hard evidence of these "repeated attempts".
In fact, the EFA/DoE meeting is the only instance you have ever cited and is why I took exception to your quote as reported in the Saddleworth News.

As far as I can see, the announcement by the EFA to re-consider and carry out full feasibility studies on all options owes little, if anything, to the efforts of our MP.
In fact, the last known phrase used by yourself on the subject was that "Diggle was the least worse option". That statement is a clear indication that you felt that it was "game-over" requiring no further involvement on your part and since then I don't recall hearing or reading anything from you to the contrary.
In truth, all the evidence suggests that this welcome move can be attributed to the efforts of a local Parish Councillor and the SDAG members who have clearly worked hard to get the full facts about this proposal available for public scrutiny.

You also plead that you are not involved in either the planning process or detailed discussions, which appears to be an excuse for the lack of involvement.
This we know.
I could add that neither is the unpaid Parish Councillor who is leading the campaign to get the new school rebuilt in Uppermill but that has not stopped him from working tirelessly on behalf of the local people.
Therefore I feel that it is not unreasonable for constituents to expect their MP to work equally visibly to get a fair assessment of a proposal that is causing so much local concern.

At several of the meetings I have attended your name has cropped up occasionally.
This is usually accompanied by such phrases as "our invisible MP" etc etc so you can see why I and other residents do not feel that you have had any positive effect on the present situation.

To counter this you might, under the present circumstances, wish to consider the following courses of action:-

  • Be seen to be lobbying with local residents to get the new school rebuilt in Uppermill, particularly as the EFA have acknowledged that this is feasible.

  • Meet with Mr Peter Lauener of the EFA to stress the importance of keeping the school in Uppermill and reminding them that the petition has 2700 signatures supporting this. It would be worth re-iterating that at the recent local council elections the successful candidate, by a large margin, was the one who supported the residents campaign.

  • As our MP, ensure that you are consulted before the final decision is announced.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Mr Marshall