LETTER: No negative campaigning

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I refer to the recent article under the heading Lib Dems are ‘obvious alternative to more of the same’ from Tories (Observer, March 30).

I have no intention of getting involved in any negative campaigning, or making any ‘unfunded’ promises to the electorate, but when incorrect statements are being made I cannot let them go unanswered.

Dr Walsh raises the question of school funding which is something that concerns us all.

He refers to the recent Government proposals for fairer funding, which do in fact indicate a total gain of over £14million to West Sussex schools.

However, I accept that this does not clearly reflect the overall effect for many schools, which is why the county has submitted a robust response to the consultation. As this consultation only closed on March 22, it will be some time before the Government announces its final proposals. However, we are confident they will listen closely to the concerns raised, not only by ourselves, but by many other education authorities across the country. The point I want to correct refers to Dr Walsh’s statement that the Tories efforts were ‘a bit late in the day’. I would just like to remind him that when I was the cabinet member for education and skills I actually started the West Sussex County Council campaign for fairer funding in 2015.

On March 26 that year I wrote to the then Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan, pointing out how poorly funded West Sussex Schools were – in fact, the lowest funded county council and fourth lowest funded education authority in the country.

This letter was followed up by further correspondence, which resulted in a meeting between the Secretary of State, myself, and the majority of West Sussex MPs, the following September.

The campaign for fairer funding was supported by many other authorities, together with a number of our headteachers who also wrote to the Secretary of State in April of that year.

The action of these headteachers led to the formation of the schools ‘Worth Less’ campaign, which was supported by the county council. I believe all this pressure brought about the review of the funding formula which is now taking place.

So, Dr Walsh, far from being ‘late in the day’ as you suggested, this West Sussex Tory administration were actually the first ones there ‘on the day’ – and what’s more, we are still there, campaigning strongly to ensure that our young people get the best start in life.

If anyone has turned up rather late, I would suggest that it is our opposition colleagues! I trust this puts the record straight.

As I said at the beginning of this letter, I don’t believe in negative campaigning, so I would just like to finish by thanking Dr Walsh for his support of the Tory campaign to retain our highly regarded fire and rescue service within West Sussex County Council, and not let it be taken over by the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner.

CLLR Jeremy hunt

West Sussex County Council member for the Chichester North Division