£15bn bill for children’s classroom safety

By Alex Stevenson

Spending £15 billion on capital spending over the next five years is the minimum necessary to ensure all schoolchildren are taught in safe and structurally sound classrooms, a report has warned.

The Local Government Association’s (LGA) report comes after education secretary Michael Gove halted over 700 projects from the Labour government’s Building Schools for the Future programme.

Analysis carried out by the LGA and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services found that £15 billion of the £29 billion of local authorities’ capital needs were ‘essential’ to meet statutory requirements, such as maintaining health and safety and providing school places.

With further spending cuts expected in the comprehensive spending review, due to be published in full on October 20th, there are fears that councils could find themselves struggling to afford the absolute minimum needed to keep children safe.

“Our children need schools which are safe, clean and attractive places in which they can learn,” LGA chairman Margaret Eaton said.

“Spending money to maintain or replace existing school buildings is unavoidable. Areas experiencing booming birth rates need to be able to expand primary schools so that every child has a place not too far from their home.”

The LGA is calling for local authorities to be given the power to pool public spending on capital projects by region, enabling councils to get the best value for money.

Under its proposals building work providing new school capacity could be combined with a scheme to provide a new GP surgery, it suggested.

Baroness Eaton added: “Local government is asking for freedoms which will make the country’s money go further.

“The common sense flexibility we’re requesting will mean councils all over the country can build new schools and improve neighbourhood facilities that residents use every day.”