Since I was elected in 2004 I’ve served on Co Wexford Vocational Education Committee. This committee runs 6 second level schools in the county and alos nominates board members to some community schools that it iholds joint trustee status with other patrons. The VEC also provides adult education, traveller education, literacy programs and PLC courses that are accepted by third level colleges as a valid entry route.
That was until today. Last year that great supporter of vocational education Colm McCarthy made the case for just 22 VEC’s. This year the minister has said there should be just 16. Just 4 will remain in place, City of Dublin as you would expect in the largest single local authority in the country and the other 3 just happen to be located in the constituency of the present minister and her immediate predecessor!
Good old Fianna Fail and the Greens! If they are delivering a new standard of service to all of us why then are they not allowing their own constituents to benefit from the claimed improved service delivery? Minister Coughlan tells us that the remaining VECs "will be organisations of sufficient scale to support the evolution of local education service delivery and to meet future challenges So what hen is the actual saving? I’ve been on the audit committee of our own VEC for those 6 years and I’ve yet to see a report n either our own or any other VEC that suggests there’s a huge amount to be saved. I reckon whatever savings are made will probably last the state about 30 minutes.
So the Greens & Fianna Fail know the price of everything and the value of nothing! Wexford is going to be amalgamated with Wicklow and it seems it’s a done deal as the governing body of vocational committees the IVEA has reluctantly accepted the minister’s plan. I’m surprised that there has been no consultation on this with individual VEC’s. As Co Wexford VEC Vice Chairperson I’d expect better. Should I wish to remain on the merged VEC, where will the new HQ be located? For instance we moved 4 years ago to a new HQ that we’ve leased. Will the new HQ be in Wexford or Wicklow town? Will I be paid expenses to go to Wicklow town for meetings? At present I claim only the attendance expense for meetings that mean my absence from home of more than 3 hours and no mileage, about €40 per month usually only clocked up after a main monthly committee meeting . I’m also on audit committee and the Outdoor Education Centre committee. I believe mileage claims will take off as members have to travel further to meetings.
I suppose it’s only coincidental that there remains just a handful of government supporters on the VEC’s. In Wexford’s case just 4 VEC members support the government while Labour alone has 5 members! I’ve yet to make my mind up if I want to serve on any amalgamated body and it may be sometime before the government brings in the legislation. Last year I indicated to the committee that I didn’t want to serve on any VEC board that managed schools where my name wouldn’t appear on a ballot paper, meaning I didn’t want to serve outside the county. It would probably be better for any new VEC to have new and different members to bed down any new ethos.
New legislation is promised so what’s the bet that the membership of councillors will be significantly cut back with board size reduced? An Board Snip Nua will see less local authorities and less local democracy. Soon we’ll see that the axing of harbour boards was the start of the thin end of wedge. The chaos caused by the economic slump is being used to recast the social fabric of this country. An unrivalled unaccountable bureaucracy will be the real triumph of Cowen, Coughlan and Gormley!