Press Release 20 April 2015

Battle in Bootle

Grassroots challenge to political elite in super safe Labour seat

20 April 2015

Liverpool, UK –Fledgling campaign group SOS Transport Sefton, founded by parents of disabled children, is taking on the local political ruling class in the ultra safe Labour seat of Bootle, in the borough of Sefton, North West England, over the issue of school and college transport for over 16s with Special Educational Needs.

Local parents are up in arms over a recent public consultation carried out by Sefton Council, which presented their proposed changes to transport provision as an opportunity for disabled young people to “be independent and lead fulfilling lives”. SOS Transport Sefton claims this is a smokescreen for the axing of the post-16 school and college transport service that is a lifeline for many families of disabled children. Without this service, some parents say their children will be unable to get to school or college. (Copy of Council’s consultation questionnaire available from sostransportsefton@gmail.com)

An election pledges leaflet (copy available from sostransportsefton@gmail.com) recently issued by Peter Dowd, who is both Leader of Sefton Council and Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Bootle, has added fuel to the fire. Parents have reacted strongly to three of Mr Dowd’s election pledges:

  •  Work with schools and colleges to give our young people the best start in life
  • Fight to get a fairer deal for the most vulnerable
  • Demand better environmental standards and protect our precious green spaces

A spokesperson for SOS Transport Sefton said “This is sheer hypocrisy. How can disabled young people have the best start in life if they can’t get to school or college? How is removing school transport from the most vulnerable a ‘fairer deal’? And what will be the impact on the environment of removing school buses and potentially putting more cars on the road? As Leader of Sefton Council, Mr Dowd should practise what he preaches as prospective MP for Bootle.”

SOS Transport Sefton has taken steps to mobilise opposition to what is seen as a flawed public consultation process and Mr Dowd’s controversial election pledges by:

  • Gathering over 5,000 signatures in on-line and paper petitions, which is above the threshold required to force a full Council debate
  • Organising a peaceful demonstration march to present the petition to the Council
  • Setting in motion a legal challenge against Sefton Council
  • Sending an open letter to Mr Dowd (available on runawaybus.wordpress.com)
  • Sending a parody ‘Councillor Consultation’ questionnaire to every councillor in Sefton, satirising the consultation process which many parents see as patronising and disingenuous (copy available from sostransportsefton@gmail.com).
  • Setting up a Facebook page, a Twitter feed @SOS_Sefton and a blog, runawaybus.wordpress.com
  • Using a mixture of critical comment and humour (but NOT abuse) to challenge Mr Dowd on Twitter, resulting in Mr Dowd blocking their Twitter account

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