THE leader of Hillingdon Council has slammed Hayes and Harlington Labour parliamentary election candidate John McDonnell as the controversy surrounding the building schools programme rumbles on.
Councillor Ray Puddifoot (Con) accused Mr McDonnell of pulling 'a political stunt' and causing unnecessary worry to parents after spearheading a petition campaign to get the £150million Building Schools for the 21st Century programme back on track, following an announcement in February that work on the bid for the funds would be postponed until after the election.
Mr McDonnell claimed that this U-turn by the council is an indication that the programme will fall by the wayside.
Mr Puddifoot has maintained that there has been no change to policy, and added that the council were merely being cost-effective and saving £750k on consultancy fees in a period where no work can be done on the project.
He invited Mr McDonnell to have his petition heard at a public meeting on April 20 but the MP did not attend, and the council leader criticised him for his handling of the matter.
Mr Puddifoot said: "We have a reputation in Hillingdon Council for honesty and putting people before politics and this type of activity is nothing short of disgraceful. It is just scaremongering, plain and simple."
"It is an act of spite to treat residents in this way, unnecessarily worrying parents with this type of political stunt and not having the courage to either admit that he was wrong or repeat his accusation and be questioned in public. Everyone who wants a petition heard has to do it in this way and Mr McDonnell doesn't get special treatment because he is an MP."
In response to these claims, Mr McDonnell said that five minutes was not enough time to stress the importance of the bid and, given the opportunity, he could have successfully worked in tandem with Uxbridge candidate John Randall and Ruislip and Northwood candidate Nick Hurd, on behalf of the whole community.
He added: "Refusing a proper discussion of this issue at the education committee and then offering local parents, local councillors and myself only five minutes to present a petition that could determine the future of their children's education, is treating local people with contempt and is arrogant in the extreme.
"The leader of the council should remember that he is meant to serve the local people who pay his high level of allowances, not dictate to them."