People in Bridgwater and West Somerset are demanding to know why their MP Ian Liddell-Grainger was absent from two crucial meetings in response to a massive cut in the budget for adult education.
The budget for classes run by Somerset Skills and Learning (SS&L) has been slashed from £3.4 million to just £110,000 and hundreds of classes across the county have been postponed. Labour says this is a result of government cuts and of SS&L being hived off from the county council by the Conservative administration at County Hall.
The Elusive Ian
An effort has now begun to try to get the cut reversed and classes open again. Somerset has five MPs – all Conservative – and four of them were at a meeting on Wednesday September 6th with an education minister, Anne Milton. But Liddell-Grainger wasn’t there. And he reportedly wasn’t there again when his colleagues met the minister again on Monday September 11th.
The further education newspaper, FE Week, has been following the story closely. This is how it reported Liddell-Grainger’s absence from the September 6th meeting:
Ian Liddell-Grainger was the only Somerset MP not to participate. Mr Liddell-Grainger told FE Week that despite being in Parliament at the time he had not been invited to the meeting, an oversight by his colleagues, which he described several times as “utter incompetence.” He went on to say that the way SS&L was being treated was “blatantly unfair, wrong and the DfE needs to come up with the money. I’ve known Anne Milton for years. She is practical and will want to find solutions. I will also be writing to her.”
Andy Lewis of West Somerset Labour Party said: “After years of observing Liddell-Grainger, his absence from these crucial meetings does not come as a surprise. He often talks about writing to ministers and constituents often wonder if this is just talk.
“On this occasion, he had not one but two opportunities to put the case for Somerset education to a minister face to face and he didn’t take it. He says his Tory colleagues didn’t invite him because of an oversight. It seems far more likely they thought his presence would do more harm than good.
“Liddell-Grainger accuses the other Somerset Conservative MPs of “utter incompetence” If he wants to see someone utterly incompetent, he should look in a mirror.”