Residents of Stoke Poges are up in arms about a proposal to move a faith school into their village—partly because it is an imposition on their community without their consent, but also because, so far, it’s a giant waste of taxpayers' money—they claim some £5.5million!
The villagers appear to be the victims of a battle between the government’s Department for Education (DfE) and Slough Borough Council (SBC). Aware of the growing anger in Stoke Poges, the DfE performed a u-turn and insisted that the Sikh Khalsa Academy be sited in Slough, but SBC have rejected this, preferring to build a new home for the football club on the designated site. In the meantime, South Bucks District Council recommended the rejection of the application for a change of use of the Pioneer office block in Stoke Poges to house the school but then angered locals by allowing its use as a temporary site. Protestors now claim this is costing £5.5m of taxpayers’ money to acquire a temporary 12-month site for the school in the Stoke Poges office block.
‘The DfE and EFA (Education Funding Authority) has purchased the building using our taxes so that the school can open anyway,’ says local protestor Janet Cottrell, ‘against the wishes of 4,000 local residents, Stoke Poges Parish Council and South Bucks District Council. This is supposed to be a temporary location for the school while they look for permanent premises in Slough or West London where the pupils live, rather than in the village of Stoke Poges.’
‘There is an empty Secondary school building in Slough,’ explains Janet. ‘We cannot see why the DfE/EFA were unable to insist that SBC relinquish the empty school or how, in 12 months time, they will be able to recoup the money they have spent on the office block in Stoke Poges, since it has cost in the region of £5.5m [£4.5 million for the site, plus associated costs and surveys] for a building which had a previous highest bid of £3.8m.’
The Stoke Poges protestors had a public meeting last Tuesday and the next stage in their campaign is to take legal action against the DfE culminating in a judicial review, which may cost them up to £50,000. In the meantime it looks like the taxpayer will be a major loser in this saga.