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A HEADTEACHER angered by proposed county council charges for pupils from religious schools has warned 200,000 Catholic votes are at stake across Essex.

A HEADTEACHER angered by proposed county council charges for pupils from religious schools has warned 200,000 Catholic votes are at stake across Essex.

Alan Whelan, of St Benedict's College, a Roman Catholic secondary school in Colchester, spoke after more than 100 pupils gathered outside County Hall in Chelmsford yesterdayto keep the pressure on the administration which has proposed the £300-a-year fee.

Pupils from 12 schools across Essex presented a number of petitions to education supremo, councillor Iris Pummell.

Essex County Council introduced the idea of paying £100-a-term per child as it looked to slash spending. The proposals have provoked outrage with the move being branded 'a tax on Catholicism'.


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Mrs Pummell also spoke privately with four pupils from St Benedict's who voiced their concerns about the possible impact of the charges.

Mr Whelan said: "My students felt, again, Mrs Pummell was not listening to what they had to say. Our young people can see beyond the line that it will only affect their parents.

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"Some people in the present administration don't seem to have any idea how ordinary people don't have hundreds of pounds spare in their pockets.

"They will be very surprised when they see the number of people at County Hall when it comes to the night of the council's decision. There are 200,000 Catholic votes across Essex at stake here."

Iris Pummell, last night said: "I explained the budget situation to the pupils and listened to all their concerns and told them they would be taken into consideration at the vote."

A spokesman for Essex County Council said: "About 100 children and some adults gathered and passed on a number of petitions.

The issue will be considered on November 12 at a policy development group and a decision will be voted upon at a full council meeting on November 21.

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