'Severe absence': Green Party Councillor Lauren McLay blasts Conservatives' neglect of Plymouth's children and young people on vital scrutiny committee

5 March 2024

During their meeting on Wednesday 28 February, Green Party Councillor Lauren McLay (Plympton Chaddlewood) called attention to the concerning level of absenteeism from the Conservative Group on the Education and Children's Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

Plymouth Conservatives only filled 50% of their allocated seats on the committee at Wednesday's meeting. Additionally, 25% of their seats (one of their four) have been left unfilled since May 2023.

Speaking at the meeting, Councillor McLay emphasised the failure of the Conservative group to occupy their allocated seats, highlighting a critical void in their attendance since May 2023: 

"It's incredibly disappointing that the Conservatives continue to neglect their obligations to this scrutiny. I appreciate the contributions and experience Councillors Carlyle and Harrison bring...it's such a shame that this isn't shared by their party at large."

In further critique, outside of the meeting, the Councillor for Plympton Chaddlewood expressed disappointment at the apparent lack of priority given to such a vital issue by the Conservatives, stating: 

"Their indifference speaks volumes about their dedication to our cities' children and young people. They can't even be bothered to tell someone to turn up."

"Nearly one in three children are living in poverty in Plymouth and the issues that we scrutinise on this committee are vital. From improving access to special educational needs support to addressing the shortage of foster carers in Plymouth, sitting on this committee should be treated as the privilege it is."

"Ironically, we were discussing the Council's strategy for improving school attendance at Wednesday's meeting...by our own measures, the Conservatives' attendance would be classified as a 'severe absence'."

Reflecting on the situation, Cllr McLay affirmed the readiness of the Green Party to step in and uphold the responsibilities that the Conservatives have neglected, "It's so disappointing that an issue as important as our cities' children and young people isn't a priority for the main opposition party. If the Conservatives aren't prepared to fulfil that duty, the Green Party are ready and willing to step in come the local elections on 2 May."

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