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Row over Labour disabled children video shot at Walsall special school

By Richard Guttridge | Walsall | Politics | Published:

Walsall Labour members have been accused of "using profoundly disabled children for political gain" amid a furious row over a video shot at a school.

'Incensed' - Mike Bird, the Conservative leader of Walsall Council

Tory council leaders say parents were "duped" and not aware footage filmed at Mary Elliott special school in Bloxwich would be shared on social media.

Council leader Mike Bird said this was only stopped when authority legal officers secured an assurance from national Labour party members not to post it.

The furious leader described the video as a “blatant act of breach of safeguarding” and said he had written to Jeremy Corbyn on the matter.

But Gill Ogilvie, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Walsall North – who bore the brunt of Councillor Bird’s criticisms – said the video was originally created to highlight the impact proposed cuts to home to school transport have had on vulnerable teenagers.

She said she had originally secured full permission from the school and parents featured but added they pulled the video themselves when those permissions were later withdrawn.

'Duped'

In the meeting, Councillor Bird said: “I feel quite incensed about this. I will not tolerate our disabled children being used as political pawns.”

He told the Express & Star afterwards: "I have spoken to parents, they were not told what it was going to be. They were duped. They were using profoundly disabled children for political gain. I have never seen people stoop so low.

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"I have written to Jeremy Corbyn and said he ought to come clean on if he supports this kind of politics."

Ms Ogilvie said the idea for the video came in a group discussion between parents and she offered the resources the party had to help create it.

She said: “The whole purpose of the video was to demonstrate the desperate situation families were in and spell out the impact these cuts would have. It was not for political propaganda.

“We obtained full permissions from the school and parents involved. But when the parents later withdrew their permission, we withdrew the video completely ourselves and were not going to publish it.

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“Mike Bird is making an issue of this to detract from what his proposed cuts would have had. I was selected by Labour to speak up for those without a voice so it’s a cheap dig at me for doing what I said I would do.”

A regional Labour spokesman said: "We are satisfied that all of the correct permissions were sought and granted from the school and parents before filming took place for a video highlighting the devastating impact of the Conservatives' cuts to local transport services for pupils with disabilities.

"We believe that measures were taken to ensure all parents were properly informed regarding the intended use of the film. However, we have been made aware that one parent has said that they were not aware of the intended use of the film, for which we sincerely apologise.

"The film has not been released on any Labour Party platform or anywhere else."

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Chief Reporter - @RichG_star

Chief Reporter for the Express & Star, based in Wolverhampton.

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