I've been reading the final volume of Chris Mullin's diaries, A Walk-On Part, covering 1994-1999.

While mostly concerned with Westminster they also cover constituency issues including some cuts that Labour-run Sunderland Council were planning. They included music teaching, swimming lessons, Derwent House "the outdoor of centre in the Lake District which for many of our kids is the first they see of the countryside", the English as a second language course "which caters for 240 mainly Bengali children who come from homes where not a word of English is spoken,," and so on.

Mullin adds that: "Frankly, the Council has not handled this well. It may well be that they have no other choice, but little effort has been made to convince people of that. being a one-party state everyone knows that the decisions are taken in private at the Labour Group. By the time the proposals reach committee, the decisions are cut and dried and no real debate takes place, except a bit of posturing for the gallery."

But then it turned out these cuts weren't necessary after all.

Here is the entry for Wednesday, " August 1995:

Two hours with the new Director of Education, John Williams. He has previously spent ten years in the Isle of Wight, which is riddled with Masons, but he assures me he is not one. 'There,' he said, 'councillors had difficulty making up their minds about anything. here there is more of a Somme mentality. Once decisions have been made they cannot bee changed. I have had difficulty persuading people hat revising some of the proposed cuts doesn't mean political humiliation.' His predecessor had drawn up an unnecessarily drastic list of possible cuts in the belief that it would frighten councillors off the education budget. The same trick had worked in previous years, but this time round it didn't and they were all voted through mechanically. He has managed to save something from the wreckage. English as a second language has been saved; £100,000 has been found for the music service – some will be used to help poorer students and some to keep the youth orchestras going. A plan is being drawn up which should enable the outdoor centre at Derwent Hill to survive….

It all sounds rather topical, doesn't it?

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