Campaigners said the closure of a number of disabled and adult learning programmes in Grimsby was treated “as a political issue” and that councillors behaved like they were “in a kids’ playground”.
North East Lincolnshire Council last night decided to press on with the decision to axe the Community Learning Service after rejecting a Labour opposition motion to save the facility.
The service, which is based at the town’s Skills Hub, teaches between 400 and 700 people and a 2,800 signature petition was submitted to the council in an effort to save the centre.
Conservative council leader, Philip Jackson, said he felt “satisfied” that the last Labour administration “took the right decision” to close the facility.
But, Dick Appleton, whose 45-year-old autistic daughter Sophie attends the school, said the closure of the service was treated as a “political issue”.
“You have heard it here tonight with the amount of back biting, it was like being in a kids’ playground,” he said.
“Nobody was prepared to listen and that was the reason the previous council were kicked out by the voters, because they proved to be a non-listening council.
“The request was ‘you show that you are a listening council’ and they are not.”
Mr Appleton described the service as the town’s “best kept secret” and that his daughter has benefited from being taught differently to mainstream educational establishments.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m just a concerned parent of an autistic person who can’t speak for herself and who needs to find alternative education of the quality that she has been receiving,” said Mr Appleton.
The Skills Hub, which is based on Freeman Street in the town, is earmarked to close a number of its programmes by the authority at the end of the academic year.
The centre teaches people with special education, mental or physical needs in GCSEs, job skills and learning English as a second language.
Labour leader of the opposition, Councillor Matthew Patrick, called on the authority to halt the closure and to “keep an open mind” about the service.
He acknowledged that the decision to close the service was made under the last Labour council, but added that “new information had come to light” and urged the council to look again at the decision.
“What the service offers to our community is a second chance to those who might struggle to get one,” he said.
“All educational establishments aim to improve people’s lives, but in the case of the community learning service, they are the unsung heroes.”
But, Councillor John Fenty, cabinet member for regeneration, skills and housing, said Labour was giving “false hope” to petitioners and that the service was failing.
He added that learners would be “better served” at facilities elsewhere in Grimsby.
“I deeply care that whatever decision is made that learners and those that need the most help have good education provision,” he said.
The council said the move to close the service had been “a complex decision, giving consideration to the many significant challenges that the service has had to face over a number of years”.
It added that the hub itself will remain open and in use by some services, including the National Careers Service.
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