Bolt wants Smith to foot Castle Hall bill

Issue 409

EDUCATION boss Ken Smith should reimburse the £11,500 legal fees spent fighting a council bid to close a Mirfield school then quit his post, a councillor said.

Coun Ken Smith, Cabinet member for education and Labours deputy leader, came under fire from Mirfield Tory councillor Martyn Bolt.

It has emerged that parents and supporters spent £11,500 on a barrister to save Castle Hall School from closure.

The barrister won the appeal for Retain Education at Castle Hall (REACH) at a hearing before schools adjudicator Canon Richard Lindley.

REACH still have £6,000 to pay and a second fundraising ball and celebration night was due to be held at the school tonight (Friday).

Deputy Tory leader Coun Bolt wants the full amount to be paid out of council coffers and said: Coun Smith has a moral duty to reimburse the money and then resign.

I know the political reality is he wont resign. He has the support of too many other councillors. But it would be the principled thing to do.

Coun Smith claimed any refund would be an abuse of taxpayers money because REACH had no need to seek legal advice over their campaign.

There was no need for them to do that, he said. The process wasnt couched in legalese. It was a pretty straightforward process.

Im not even sure what they could have spent so much money on. My personal view is they didnt need to spend a penny on their arguments.

The council didnt spend any money on legal counsel, not to my knowledge anyway. So why did they need a barrister? And on the resignation issue, there was a full council meeting last week and Coun Bolt never said a word about that during the whole time.

But Coun Bolt insists his Labour rival has to go for not being able to explain how much taxpayers money was used in defending the councils case.

He said: Coun Smith claims the councils actions didnt cost taxpayers any money.

But theres things like officers time and expenses over 12 months to consider.

Anybody running an organisation or department should be able to account for how their staff spend their time and how much it costs.

If Coun Smith is unable or unwilling to do that, then he is incompetent. Thats why he should resign. But I sadly know what the political reality is.

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