UPDATED 17:09*
JUST days before the Isle of Wight Council, backed by the Department for Education, is set to challenge Jon Platt in the Supreme Court, a letter has emerged that shows the authority could withdraw from the case.
In a letter seen by the County Press, sent last June to Isle of Wight Council leader at the time Cllr Jonathan Bacon, schools minister Nick Gibb made it clear the council could pull out of the case — despite the government having urged it to go ahead with the Supreme Court challenge, which it would fund.
The latest development comes a week after Conservatives took control at County Hall, with vocal critic of the case Cllr Chris Whitehouse being made executive member for education.
Just two weeks ago he called for the case to be dropped immediately, branding the Isle of Wight Council’s actions as outrageous vindictive harassment.
But the Isle of Wight Council said yesterday (Tuesday) the case was still set to go ahead next Tuesday, despite Cllr Whitehouse maintaining his view it should have been dropped after the authority lost the case at magistrates court.
When asked about the Nick Gibb letter, he said he was unable to comment due to a legal agreement made by the previous leadership, which said all statements regarding the case had to be agreed with the DfE.
Jon Platt — who was fined for taking his daughter on holiday during term-time, but argued successfully that her attendance was otherwise good — said it may be too late for the authority to pull out.
"I would rather go to the Supreme Court and lose, than see people on the Isle of Wight lumbered with a legal bill running into hundreds of thousands of pounds if the council pulled out at this stage.
"If Chris Whitehouse could get an absolute undertaking from the DfE that they would still pay all the costs even if they pulled out, then I think they should. That would leave it as me versus the DfE.
"Whether at such a late stage it is practical for that to happen, I do not know.
"Any party can withdraw from the case, but it would require the consent of the other parties in the case. I have already told the council I would give my consent, but if the DfE did not give its consent, the council would not be able to withdraw."

Cllr Bacon said: "This shows that we should be very careful about Conservative allegations and promises and also shows their tendency to make bold claims and statements without understanding the situation.

"Now they have to actually shoulder responsibility for matters in the council for a short time their failings in these regards will, as in this case, become apparent for all to see and judge."  

For more on this story, please see the Isle of Wight County Press on Friday, January 29.

* The Department for Education told the County Press today (Wednesday) that it had no indication the Isle of Wight Council intended to withdraw from the case and it would not speculate further.

Reporter: ross.findon@iwcp.co.uk