Friday, 07 August 2015

Radio Review: 7 August

A comedian fronts first-rate coverage of a local scandal

Written by Louis Barfe
Louis-Barfe-colour-176First impressions can be wrong. I didn’t take to Iain Lee when he presented Channel 4’s The 11 O’Clock Show one little bit. Nearly 20 years later, I’m a fan. Lee’s presenting the breakfast show on BBC Three Counties Radio (weekdays, 6-9am), and doing a damned fine job of it too.

Nowhere has this been more obvious than in the way he and his team, including reporter Justin Dealey, have covered the closure of Penn School near High Wycombe, a specialist school for children with communication difficulties. Parents, among them Radio 2 presenter Ken Bruce, were told by email two weeks before the end of term that the school had gone into administration and would not reopen in September unless a buyer was found. Later it emerged that the local MP, Steve Baker, was told a month before the parents but said nothing.

Baker eventually submitted to a well-deserved monstering from Lee, claiming he had been busy at Westminster, and that his presence was needed there because of the Government’s slim majority. Lee suggested none too gently that he should try looking after his constituency a bit more.

Over the course of a week, Lee and his colleagues questioned how a unique and badly needed school could collapse financially. The trustees came back with veiled legal threats and a droning statement from a PR man, doubtless hired at some expense. ‘Who’s paying?’ asked Lee.

The school needed decorating, and Waitrose offered paint and supplies. The offer was never taken up. When she finally spoke to Dealey, the head admitted she had never known of this offer. At best, there has been a catalogue of incompetence, and now blameless children are paying the price. The coverage of this debacle has been compiled into a blistering, indignant podcast, and is pretty much local radio at its best.

Louis on Twitter: @LFBarfe or email: wireless@cheeseford.net


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