Britain: Labour councillors battle against school reforms

Labour councillors today vowed to fight the government's plans to reduce the role of local authorities in education.

Jeremy Beecham, leader of the Local Government Association's Labour group, said the shakeup of secondary education announced in this week's white paper was based on a false premise that councils currently controlled schools.

He said: "Councillors, especially Labour councillors, are not content to indulge this fantasy."

But Beecham added that the government's proposals to allow state schools to become independent would hamper councils' ability to uphold fair admissions.

"The proposals around admissions, the planning of new schools and the expansion of popular schools give insufficient leverage to councils to maximise fairness or the efficient use of resources," he said.

He predicted that under the plans some children would be "left behind" as popular schools expanded.

Jeremy Beecham, who is also chairman of the Labour party's National Executive Committee, said the white paper was part of a wider policy to end the role of councils in the direct provision of services.

Beecham's views appear to echo those of the deputy prime minister, John Prescott, who was reported to have clashed with the education secretary, Ruth Kelly, in cabinet meetings over the plans.

Prescott is understood to be worried that reforms would undermine the role of local education authorities and introduce too many private sector education providers, The Guardian reports.