Council has no money for school repair funding gap

Castlebrae High was one of the schools at which demolition and reinforcement work had been ordered. Picture: PHIL WILKINSON.
Castlebrae High was one of the schools at which demolition and reinforcement work had been ordered. Picture: PHIL WILKINSON.
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A FUNDING gap for school repairs cannot be plugged by current budgets, education chiefs have claimed as it emerged walls at 13 campuses have had to be bolstered or demolished in the wake of the Liberton High School tragedy.

An urgent inspection of 131 school buildings was ordered following the death of 12-year-old Keane Wallis-Bennett who was crushed by a “wobbly” modesty wall in April while dressing for PE. City chiefs stressed demolition and reinforcement work was carried out as a precaution and not in response to immediate safety concerns.

And they said a £30 million programme of school repairs would take place over the next five years – managed by a dedicated team of staff – to bring all schools up to a “good standard”.

But in a carefully worded statement, the local authority said much-needed further work was jeapordised by lack of funds amid slashed council budgets with “few options to raise additional revenue”.

A council spokesman said “swift action” had been taken to inspect the school estate following the Liberton tragedy to ensure “no other similar structures were in place that could potentially pose a risk”.

And he added: “We know there is much more to do and we are seeking to identify further funding. However it is clear that there are real financial challenges across the whole public sector, council budgets are being cut, and we have few options to raise additional revenue.

“We are committed to finding out exactly what happened at Liberton and ensuring nothing similar can ever happen again.”

The council has not yet revealed the identities of all schools to receive urgent repairs. A three-day emergency probe was launched at primary, secondary, special and nursery schools across the Capital from April 2 – the day after the Liberton incident. The Evening News previously revealed how Castlebrae High and Leith Academy were among schools at which demolition and reinforcement work had been ordered.

Opposition and parent leaders said it was “reassuring” to hear work had been carried out but branded the funding gap for school repairs “very concerning”.

Councillor Melanie Main, education spokeswoman for Edinburgh Greens, said: “There is no solution on the table within the council nor from Scottish Government.”

Lindsay Law, parent representative on the city’s education committee, said the gap underlined the need for a thorough re-examination of the arrangements for council tax and local government finance.