Controversial school catchment areas will be introduced in Brighton and Hove next year.

But the proposals were approved on Friday only after Labour sacked a rebel councillor from the schools committee for refusing to back reform.

The move enraged opponents of the scheme, with many questioning the local Labour Party's integrity.

Juliet McCaffery tells why she had to stick to her guns and incur the wrath of colleagues.

On Friday at 3pm Brighton and Hove City Council's revamped secondary school admissions plan was set to fall flat on its face.

With the final vote on whether to accept the catchment area scheme just two hours away, the ten members of the children, families and schools committee were split six to four - and they were against the proposals.

Since unanimously agreeing in principal to the plans at the previous meeting in November, the four Conservative committee members, Ken Norman, Ted Kemble, Vanessa Brown and Linda Hyde, along with independent Jayne Bennett and Labour rebel Juliet McCaffery, had all been swayed by a groundswell of protests against the scheme.

More than 3,500 people signed a petition against the proposals and had put pressure on councillors to do what was best for voters in their wards. But plans had been created in the first place following pressure from hundreds of parents in other areas who claimed the existing distance-from-school measure was unfair because of the uneven distribution of schools around the city.

Many faced having no choice about which school their children attended because they lived too far from any of them. They had raised a petition too with almost 1,000 signatures.

With council elections looming in May, committee members had a lot to think about.

At 3.15pm Councillor McCaffery, deputy chairwoman of the committee, was unceremoniously removed from her duties by council leader Simon Burgess.

Having got wind that the decision was going to go against the Labour Party because Coun McCaffery was refusing to vote in favour, he decided she had to be removed. As a result, the voting was split five-five and committee chairwoman Councillor Pat Hawkes used her casting vote to push the proposals through.

Mother-of-five Coun McCaffery said she was extremely disappointed by her party's actions.

She said: "It came as a real surprise.

I made my position very clear for at least two and a half months. It was upsetting because I had been on that committee for several years and had put in a lot of work."

Councillor Burgess said he sacked Coun McCaffery because she was acting in the interests of her ward rather than the city as a whole.

Coun McCaffery, who represents Preston Park, refuted the accusation.

She said: "I'm against the scheme because it severely disadvantages my ward and, in my opinion, severely disadvantages the city as a whole.

"I don't accept that I was not acting in the interests of the city. I'm very disappointed people in Whitehawk and Moulsecoomb will only have the choice of one school each."

She said despite knowing she would upset her party she could not have supported the proposals.

She lives in Prestonville, the area between Seven Dials and Preston Park, which has now been put into a joint catchment for Hove Park and Blatchington Mill school.

Parents in the area are devastated they will no longer be able to get their children into their nearest school, high-performing Dorothy Stringer, and because of a "lottery"

deciding factor they may also miss out on Blatchington Mill, the closer of the two in the catchment.

Hove Park's lower school is almost four miles from Prestonville.

Coun McCaffery, a governor at Stanford Junior school, in Stanford Road, said: "The bottom line is I would not want to put my 11-year-old on the bus to Hove Park. If I wouldn't, how can I expect the people who voted for me to do so? There was just no way I could vote in favour of this.

It would not have been fair."

While supporters of the catchment area scheme have been celebrating, its opponents have been investigating the possibility of a legal challenge to the decision.

Chris Bourne, unofficial spokesman for supporters of the scheme, said: "Friday night saw a victory for common sense and fairness over the forces of selfish self-interest.

Tracey-Ann Ross, spokeswoman for opposition campaign group Schools 4 Communities, said: "We are not going to leave it there. How can they get away with changing someone just because they are not happy with how they will vote. It's a mockery."

The group is looking into contacting the school adjudicator and council ombudsman, as well as the possibility of a legal challenge.

It will be holding emergency meetings tonight and at Coombe Road School tomorrow night.

Mrs Ross said: "We have to question this council's commitment to democracy. If they do it on this issue what's to stop them doing it about the King Alfred or anything else?"

As well as the parents' challenge, there is a possibility the catchment area scheme could be halted if enough councillors ask for it to be "called in" to be examined by a scrutiny committee.

A Brighton and Hove City Council spokesman said Coun McCaffery's sacking from the committee had been carried out in accordance with its constitution.

He said: "Under the constitutional arrangements operated by the council, once seats are allocated to political groups, the council is required to make individual appointments in accordance with the wishes of the group to whom the seat is allocated.

"The wishes of a group are deemed to be those expressed by the leader of the group. Where such wishes have been communicated by the leader of a group, the chief executive has to make or terminate appointments accordingly. This is exactly what happened here."

  • To see a map of the new catchment areas, click here.

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