The news is out that the Asset Group of Stoke City Council has concluded that the Wedgwood Memorial College should be put forward for closure at the end of the current financial year (March 31st, 2012).
The decision to recommend closure is a proposal at this stage and any final decision would not be made by the full City Council until its meeting planned for 28th February, 2012.
There has been much in the press recently about the large savings (£20 million) the the City Council has to find and in some ways, in a period of severe public expenditure cutbacks, it is not surprising that the decision is being recommended.
It was hoped that through a Community Asset Transfer the ownership of the College would pass to a group committed to retaining its position as a further education resource but the City Council have taken the view that the business case was not robust enough. There was also a question as to whether the College was sufficiently well used as a local community facility. It is probably true that the College is not well suited to be a conference/wedding reception centre and the hotel facilities are in need of modernisation.
The ownership of the College is not straightforward and there will be many interests to be consulted. Staffordshire County Council has a significant stake and the Esperanto Association of Britain also has a long term interest in the site. The Parish Council will also be concerned to be involved in any future discussion.
The College is not on the outskirts of the village, it occupies a central and very attractive position and potentially could provide a good base to develop local amenities for the village.
The potential loss of employment opportunities is a matter of great concern as are the loss of ‘spin off’ trade to local businesses. Paradoxically the College car park was full to overflowing this last weekend.
It is important that a measured view is taken about this development and I would be interested to receive your thoughts.