Councillor’s anger at school consultation claims

Coun Paul Collins
Coun Paul Collins

A councillor has hit back after it was claimed he was not supporting a campaign opposing the closure of a Wigan primary school.

Coun Paul Collins has accused Gareth Fairhurst of causing “unwarranted confusion and distress” after the former councillor claimed in a blog post that the Shevington ward councillors would not seek to protect all three schools being considered for closure.

But Coun Collins, who has stepped down as an associate member of the governing body of the Shevington Federation which oversees the three under-threat schools, has said the email quoted in the blog was sent in error.

It claimed Coun Collins would not be “taking the position to protect all of our schools”, Shevington Vale, Millbrook and Shevington Community which are currently the focus of a consultation that could see one closed to tackle a surplus of places in the area.

Coun Collins said: “I had not read the blog and have not had any communications with Gareth Fairhurst. The first I heard about it was when a worried parent asked me to confirm our position, which I did.

“The statement publicised on the blog is not correct and I would urge people to exercise caution when reading information posted on personal blogs as it can be difficult to validate claims made.

“From what I can gather the message on the blog has been taken from an error contained in an email message forwarded by a member of the parish council and appears to be being used to misrepresent our position.

“The original email containing the error, which I sent to Ira Whiteley the chairperson of Shevington Parish Council following an enquiry from a parish councillor, was corrected and re-sent immediately.

“But for some reason the wrong message has been passed on and has lead to it being misused in this way and has caused unnecessary distress to some of our parents.

“In an environment where we send hundreds of messages it’s inevitable there may be an occasional typing error and most people accept this.

“It saddens me when I find that an error is used to mislead people. However the original typing error was mine and I take responsibility for the error, which was corrected at the time.”

Coun Collins and fellow councillors Damian Edwardson and Mike Crosby have attended meetings arranged by parents to discuss the consultation. He continued: “My ward colleagues and I have taken the position to protect all of our schools and we have met parents and residents connected with all schools.

“We are in the process of collating all of the questions and feedback from within our ward and will be meeting with officers to discuss our concerns, after which we will be providing feedback.

“It is unfortunate that at a time when we are trying to protect the interests of our schools that people may seek to inject mischief and make believe into such an important issue, close to many of our residents as it can cause unwarranted confusion and distress based on misinformation, often to satisfy other agendas or even worse cause attention to be drawn away from important matters.

“I would urge people should they have questions or concerns to contact either one of my colleagues or myself in order to ascertain the facts and our correct position and we will be happy to deal with any issues raised with us.”

But Mr Fairhurst said he did not believe the email had been sent in error.

He said: “It was only after I had written my blog post that Coun Paul Collins said it was a typo. There is no way this is a typo but clearly an email where the district councillors are saying one thing to parents and another to Labour and the council.

“The councillors told a parents meeting that they had concern over the validity of the consultation. If they have these concerns and now saying that it is a typo why are they not writing to the council and asking for the whole process to be halted?”