THE leaders of Chester City Council have launched a scathing attack on education chiefs over the way they are handling the proposed closure of Kingsway High School.
Council leader David Evans and his deputy John Price joined the debate to save the Newton, Chester, school this week saying Cheshire County Council had handled the matter 'badly' and 'let parents and the public down'.
The split in opinion has angered education chiefs at County Hall in Chester who say Kingsway must close in summer 2006 due to its falling pupil numbers and its huge £270,000 financial deficit.
Education chiefs say there are 715 surplus places in Chester's high schools and Kingsway is the victim of a falling birth rate.
There are 239 surplus places at King-sway with just 525 on roll - the number of pupils seeking admission in September has fallen from 44 to 31.
However, the Town Hall leaders say their county equivalents are to blame for scaring parents away from Kingsway after telling them the school does not have a healthy future.
They say a city-wide review of surplus places, including primary nursery schools, should have been carried out before the finger was pointed.
The views of council leader David Evans, deputy leader John Price, and cabinet finance portfolio holder Reggie Jones will be welcomed by parents, pupils, governors and campaigners fighting to keep Kingsway open.
However, behind the claims and counter-claims, a propaganda battle is raging as district councils like Chester take on the county, with each side fighting to come out on top in any local government reorganisation.
In the Autumn, people in the North West will be given the chance to vote for or against a directly elected regional assembly, with 25 representatives from across the region deciding on how the area's resources are distributed.
If there is a 'yes' vote, the Government wants to lose a tier from the existing local government structure to ensure the system does not become too bureaucratic.
There will be a second question in the postal ballot asking which of the local council options they prefer - so the various councils are fighting it out to get their voice heard.
Kingsway moved a step closer to closure on Wednesday after county council leader Paul Findlow approved a public consultation process with a view to closing Kingsway in summer 2006.
City council leader David Evans (Lib Dem, Upton Grange) accepts: 'We are not the local education authority and we are not consulted. But we do have a community leadership role and people would expect the city council to make a state-ment on this controversial matter.'
Deputy cabinet leader Cllr John Price (Lab, Blacon Hall) referred to opinion poll soundings on any reorganisation of local
'This is demonstrably a failure by the county council and a significant lesson for the future,' he said.
'We have been asked how we might deliver education and social services and responded very well. The county council has demonstrated it can't hack it.'
Cllr Price says the county council is playing a 'blame game' in respect of Kingsway, blaming falling rolls instead of its own failure to step in and help the school at an earlier stage.
'The county council have made a complete mess of it so far,' said Cllr Price. 'We want to convey the concerns of the city. We are concerned about other schools.'
Cllr Price says the county council has 'engineered the closure' of Kingsway and urged education bosses to look at options apart from closure, such as a possible amalgamation with Upton High.
He said: 'The county is playing a blame game which is not giving any satisfaction to parents and their children. There are falling rolls across the county. To tackle one school, independently of the rest, is not helping the situation.' City council deputy leader John Price says the Kingsway consultation period must be extended.
He hit out after learning parents of Kingsway pupils had been given one day - Friday, May 7 - to convince education chiefs the school has a future: 'This whole thing is becoming a sham and a farce.'