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New leader told to sort out education
9:30am Saturday 28th April 2012 in Abingdon
Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday told the county council’s leader-in-waiting that he and his colleagues “could do better” when it comes to education.
The MP for Witney met newly-appointed county council Conservative group leader Ian Hudspeth to congratulate him on his new job.
Mr Hudspeth was elected group leader on Thursday night and is set to be voted in formally to replace outgoing council leader Keith Mitchell on May 15.
When asked what Mr Hudspeth’s priorities should be, Mr Cameron said: “There is more we can do to promote good standards of education in Oxfordshire. We have got some excellent schools, but we could do better.”
The county’s GCSE results fell below the national average for the first time last year and figures released in December showed one in three children in Oxford started secondary school without having reached expected levels in reading, writing and maths.
Last September, Mr Cameron accused Oxfordshire schools of coasting.
Offering further advice, the Prime Minister added: “The important thing is to set out some long-term objectives.
“Politics is full of day-to-day pressures and you have got to respond to that, but you have got to keep an eye on the long-term changes you want to achieve.”
Mr Hudspeth, member for Woodstock, confirmed education would be one of his top priorities for his 2013 election manifesto.
He also said he would focus on tackling Oxfordshire’s bedblocking crisis, rural deprivation, adult social care, transport, the economy and keeping taxes low.
But last night he remained tighted-lipped on the details, saying: “I have got lots of ideas but I am not going to announce them at the moment.
“It is important that I am not trying to run the council at the moment because Keith is still the leader.”
He said he was working with councillors and officers to draw up the plans and was also planning his cabinet, which he is expected to announce on May 15.
But Mr Hudspeth, 52, is also fighting to retain his Woodstock and Bladon seat on West Oxfordshire District Council on Thursday.
Mr Hudspeth said he could balance the workload of the two councils, but said he would consider some of his district council positions.
He is chairman of WODC’s licensing committee and sits on its human resources and finance and management overview and scrutiny committees.
Last night, he received the backing of district council leaders across Oxfordshire.
Oxford City Council leader Bob Price, a Labour councillor, said: “We expect him to be a constructive and helpful colleague.”
Vale of White Horse District Council leader Matthew Barber said: “I am sure Ian will be receptive to the comments and we will work closely to ensure that we will get the best deal for the residents of the Vale we can.”
West Oxfordshire District Council leader Barry Norton said: “Ian knows this part of the county very well but I am sure he will do the best for everyone, across the county as a whole.”