Hackney loses control of its schools

THE GOVERNMENT effectively took over key parts of a local authority yesterday, as Ministers prepared to put its controversial education service out to tender.

A political row broke out after David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, said he would "not sit by and watch public funds wasted on ineffective services" after a second damning report on Hackney's education service.

The east London borough's political leaders accepted Mr Blunkett's decision to send in consultants to prepare for contractors to take over school improvement services.

Labour and opposition MPs called the move undemocratic. Diane Abbott, the Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, accused Ministers of "experimenting" with Hackney. Don Foster, the Liberal Democrat's education spokesman, said the move was "making the first step towards breaking the link in the democratic process between the electorate and its local representatives".

Local government leaders said they were taking legal advice. Graham Lane, education chairman of the Local Government Association, said: "This is a minefield. It affects the whole of local government."

Mr Blunkett's action is the first time the Government has used new powers to take over local authority services. He said he was "minded" to force Hackney to contract out its school improvement service and its language and learning service. Other authority functions, including financial management, personnel and information technology, may also be contracted out.

A report by the Office for Standards in Education said the borough had improved, but warned: "This is a local education authority which is still failing, well over a year after a highly critical inspection, to provide key elements of the help schools need ... improvement to date has been hard won and is neither sufficient nor sufficiently broadly based."

Consultants will now draw up specifications for private firms, not for profit organisations or local authorities to take over some council services. Ministers will put contracts out to tender. The Department for Education and Employment will choose a contractor.

Hackney Council called the Ofsted report "fair and balanced" and said it would work in partnership with the Government, adding: "We are willing to explore any avenue which will raise educational achievement in the borough."

Diane Abbott told the Commons: "It won't do for ministers to say they are doing this on behalf of Hackney parents and children when they have not come to Hackney, not consulted local people and certainly not consulted local MPs. "

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before