Norwich councillor resigns from cabinet over free school role

A city councillor who is playing a key role in the setting up of Norwich's first free school has stepped down from the cabinet at City Hall –to avoid a conflict of interests.

Teacher Sue Sands, pictured below, was the cabinet member for wellbeing on Labour's eight-strong cabinet at Norwich City Council but recently took up the post of vice-chairman of governors at Free School Norwich.

The council's cabinet is responsible for taking most of the major decisions at City Hall and, because Mrs Sands' portfolio included her speaking about school issues, the Labour group decided there was potentially a conflict of interests because of her new role with the free school.

The Free School Norwich – the country's first free school – is due to open in September at Kings House, the former Aviva building, in Surrey Street.

Free schools, which are among the big changes introduced by education secretary Michael Gove, are funded directly by the government and have the freedom to set their own curriculum, opening times and holidays.


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Free School Norwich, which recently got the nod from Mr Gove along with seven other projects across England, is being set up by eight parents, teachers and business people from the Norwich area, including Mrs Sands.

Because of her part in the setting up the school, it was agreed the mother-of-two, who lives in Three Score and represents Sewell ward, should resign from her cabinet post. But City Hall was awash with speculaton that she had been given a dressing down last Friday and was effectively stood down, before the Labour group was informed of the decision on Monday night.

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But Steve Morphew, leader of Norwich City Council, said the decision was consensual and amicable.

'In the light of Sue's decision to accept the role of vice-chairman of governors for the Norwich Free School it has been agreed that this would make it too difficult for her to be seen to speak for the administration on matters that involved schools and children without being perceived as having a conflict of interest.Sue has therefore relinquished her role as cabinet member for wellbeing with immediate effect. At this stage of the civic year we intend to leave the position vacant and redistribute the current workload among other cabinet members until May.'

The school, which will cater for four to 11-year-olds, will open to reception and years one, two and three in September.

What do you think of the free school plans? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk

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