THE Stratford Mop of 1914 appeared little changed from previous years. Wartime austerity had not yet set in and few people foresaw that the conflict would be lengthy. One of the great traditions of the fair was its roasts. No less than five oxen and seven pigs were rotating on the spits outside the pubs on the big day. The excursion trains brought their usual hundreds of revellers from Birmingham and other centres of population. None of Stratford’s conscripts had yet embarked overseas, although just five days before, a regular with the South Wales Borderers, Sgt RH Savage, had been the first Stratfordian to fall victim to the war. He had been struck by shrapnel at the Battle of the Aisne and died of his wounds in Bournbrook Military Hospital.
Four years ago Ellis Holtom, of Stratford-upon-Avon, was born with half a working heart. Later, the Herald featured his condition as a tribute to the work of Birmingham Children’s Hospital where he was treated. Now, to mark Congenital Heart Defect Week his mum, Vicki, updates his story. . .
ALL 326 local planning authorities in England, councils like Stratford-on-Avon District, need a local plan. The core strategy is a component of that local plan. It contains all the local district wide policies that need to be considered when processing planning applications. New development needs to satisfy local needs, helping to realise the hopes and ambitions of its communities and protect them from situations they fear. New homes and places to work should provide then with a healthy lifestyle, a pleasant place to live, good recreational facilities and above all the infrastructure that enhances their quality of life. The buzzword to describe this is ‘sustainable’.
THE poor are paying more than they should be for their energy, according to damning new evidence from Stratford-upon-Avon’s Citizens Advice Bureau. Prepayment meters (PPMs) are costing users in fuel poverty a “disproportionate amount” for what little gas and electricity they can afford, the bureau has found. There are around 7.2 million people on prepayment meters in the UK and several thousand in the district of Stratford. Despite Stratford’s reputation as an affluent area, the bureau is being forced to come to the aid of more and more people living in fuel poverty on an increasingly regular basis.
It’s improving, says official, but is it enough?
SCATHING criticism of the way Stratford College has been run is made this week by a government official, who questions whether the establishment has an independent long term future.
Further Education Commissioner Dr David Collins says the college is in “a weak financial position”. It has been in deficit for the past five financial years and its financial health has been graded as “inadequate” by the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) since 2011-12.
Dr Collins lays the blame for this inadequacy squarely with the board of governors.
“Most of the existing board members were present during the period in which the college was running up significant deficits and failed to challenge adequately the then management team on its performance,” he declares.
But a former chairman of the college governors called the report “unfair”.
Cllr Tony Jefferson, chairman from December last year until earlier this summer, told the Herald: “It is unbalanced and has destabilised the governance of Stratford College because it has led to the resignation of governors.
“It has also undermined the turn-round process that was under way. The finances were about to come right and the feedback we had was ‘keep going’. ”
Dr Collins’s blunt assessment follows the sudden resignation last October of principal Martin Penny, after eight years in the job following a highly critical Ofsted report.
Mr Penny was succeeded by his deputy, Nicola Mannock, initially on an interim basis.
Earlier this year, Mrs Mannock was confirmed in the post in a shoo-in that involved no other candidates.
As a result, some governors resigned. Although changes have taken place since the commissioner visited the college in May, Dr Collins’s assessment of the establishment spares no-one’s blushes.
After criticising the board for appointing Mrs Mannock without a competitive process, and for other procedural arrangements, Dr Collins says: “The board needs new membership drawn in particular from the active business community.
“Clerking arrangements are expensive and the service currently offered is not appropriate to a modern high performing board.”
His concerns include:
However, Dr Collins noted that over the past year the new management team was beginning to tackle the college’s “not inconsiderable problems”.
He says: “Apart from the obvious financial difficulties, there has been insufficient attention to quality improvement within the institution and relationships with other organisations have also been largely neglected.
The new principal is addressing these issues with enthusiasm and flair and engendered the support of staff and stakeholders alike.
“There is a very positive response from both within and outside the college to what has recently been achieved and to the transparent and open way that now characterises its leadership and management.”
But he adds: “The scale of the task should not be underestimated.
“The question still remains as to whether Stratford College has an independent long-term future. Although the new management team is doing the right things it is not yet clear that they are enough to safeguard the future of an organisation with less than £14 million of funding.
“The success rates for 2013-14, and the enrolment figures for September 2014, will be important indicators as to the likelihood of the college maintaining an independent future.”
In conclusion, Dr Collins says: “There is still a question mark over the long-term viability of the college as an independent institution. The situation will be clearer in the autumn when a monitoring visit by the commissioner will consider whether the existing team can deliver improvements in quality and budgets without further assistance.”
Mrs Mannock greeted Dr Collins’s report with an upbeat statement that highlighted the college’s record A-level results and argued that the future was bright.
“For the first time in five years we will be looking at a small surplus.
“Three hundred and fifty staff and 6,000 students have now got a future.”
She said: “We’re in the driving seat and we’re in the fast lane, focusing on our students’ success and working with local employers to generate economic growth.”
This article first appeared in the Herald on Thursday 21st August. For the latest South Warwickshire news pick up the paper each week for 60p.