Council prolongs agony for thousands of Merton students over future of adult education

The future of thousands of Merton adult learners is still up in the air after the council revealed the best option to keep Merton’s Adult Education alive is to stop being its provider.

The decision to outsource adult learning and move to an as yet ill-defined commissioning model was made on Monday night’s council cabinet meeting.

The meeting also saw the launch of a formal consultation for students to shape the future of their beloved service.

As reported by SW Londoner the meeting was held to discuss different options for the survival of Merton’s Adult Education (MAE) as the council is struggling to save £32m in cuts.

But students fear the consultation will merely be a superficial survey and that their suggestions will not be taken under serious consideration.

Gay Bennett-Powell of the Save MAE campaign said: “We need assurances that the Whatley Avenue centre will be safeguarded.

“We need assurances that the needs of all present and future learners will be taken into account.”

Campaigners also urge the council to keep the Whatley Avenue venue and seek the views of vulnerable learners, as the service provides vital support for such groups.

Lucy Hayes of the Stroke Association said: “It is important for the College to continue offering classes to stroke survivors and other people with additional support needs.

“Our stroke survivors’ art class at Merton Adult Education provides a great sense of success, peace and enjoyment and is a source of creative expression and communication.

“For no clear reason Labour are putting at risk a vital service for over 5,000 people. We are fighting to protect this service.”

“The Whatley Centre is a perfect environment for group members: accessible, safe and supportive.”

Commenting after the cabinet meeting councillor James Holmes, Conservative education spokesman, said: “Labour have failed to demonstrate that any money will be saved by their proposals.

“The subsidy the council pays for MAE is more than offset by the contribution that the college makes to council overheads.”

He added: “For no clear reason Labour are putting at risk a vital service for over 5,000 people. We are fighting to protect this service.”

However, Merton Council argues they are doing their best to ensure provision of adult education services in the borough but that changes are a necessary evil.

Councillor Martin Whelton said: “We’re calling on people to get involved in the consultation so they can help us shape a new service for Merton.

We are having to make tough choices, but we will work to ensure services continue to function and the most vulnerable in our community take less of a share of the cuts.”

A petition to Save the MAE has attracted more than 600 signatures.

The consultation will be available between November 17 and January 4 and the final decision will be made on January 9.

You can sign the petition here.

Image courtesy of Googlemaps, with thanks

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