MANSFIELD: Anger in polling station row

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Labour group members at Mansfield District Council have been accused of putting votes above education, for ignoring calls for a polling station to be moved from a school to a nearby scout hut.

Staff, parents and governors at the Wainwright Primary Academy, in Harrop White Road, had petitioned the authority - saying that using the school as a polling station disrupted education for more than 350 pupils and caused parents childcare problems.

It had been proposed that the polling station for the European Elections in May be moved to the scout hut on Harrop White Road - a five minute walk away.

And despite Mansfield District Council staff saying that the scout hut was an ideal location for use as a polling station, Labour politicians voted on mass to keep polling at the school.

At the authority’s last meeting on December 17th, headteacher Michele Bailey was told by Coun Stuart Richardson, who chairs the council committee, that the scout hut was too far for some elderly residents who live near the school to walk.

He also said that using the school as a polling station was a good way of teaching youngsters about democracy.

But the decision has been slammed by opposition politicians and parents.

Independent forum member Coun Stephen Garner said the Labour group had put securing votes above the needs of parents and children.

He said: “I pressed for the scout hut to be commissioned for this purpose but to no avail. Labour councillors voted for the Wainwright Academy to stay as a polling station, ignoring the wishes of the school and local parents.”

“Obviously local Labour councillors do not consider that our children’s education matters. “

He told Chad that older votes could use postal voting if the walk to the polling station was too far.

Coun Richardson said: “We need to do everything we can to make sure that people get a fair chance to vote. This is a council decision and not a personal decision.”

Staff at the school told Chad that using Wainwright Academy as a polling station disrupts children’s education and causes problems for parents who have to find childcare or take time off work to look after them.

The May election also coincides with the annual SATS exams for Year 6 students, and fall at the worst possible time in the education calendar, staff said.

The school already teaches democracy through its own school council and said it is impractical to use the time as an inset day for staff, as they need access to the whole school.

Parent Lee Giles, who is also a school governor and runs the scout group, said: “The scout hut is an ideal location with lots of parking and good disabled access. They feel that some people may not want to go out and vote if they move the polling station, but there are people who live by the scout hut who have to walk to the school.”