THE Capital is facing a £17.2 million black hole for essential repair and maintenance work on its most dilapidated schools.
Education chiefs need to spend around £24.7m on problems such as loose masonry, broken windows, heating failures and blocked toilets over the next five years – but only £7.5m is available.
City leaders admit they face a “real challenge” spreading the sum out to cover their emergency spending – which comes over and above a crippling £50m bill for long-term upgrades and enhancements to ensure classrooms meet strict national criteria on usability.
They have pledged to strictly prioritise their limited funds to ensure no school is left unsafe or exposed to the elements.
But parents are worried the yawning cash gap will leave schools facing a build-up of safety risks from ongoing structural degradation.
The dangers have been dramatically illustrated at Bruntsfield Primary, where families were left shocked after chunks of cornicing fell suddenly from the gym hall roof at the start of the 2011-12 session following years of water ingress.
And parents say pupils will be hit by a range of other issues, including inadequately maintained playgrounds which are repeatedly flooded by broken drains, failed boilers and overheated classrooms where windows have been jammed shut.
Amanda Campbell, parent council member at Wester Hailes Education Centre and previously chair of Sighthill Primary parent council, said: “If boilers are broken, the temperature control is off and the school is too cold then it has to close – kids are missing out on their education. And there are real risks if they’re not keeping up with repairs. A slate could fall off and hit a kid – a floorboard could come up and someone could trip on it.”
Opposition leaders said the figures indicated a “wing and a prayer” approach.
Councillor Gavin Corbett, Green finance spokesman, said: “Lack of maintenance in the past has led to the council needing to spend more to replace building parts today.
“And that will continue to be the case in the future – by failing to do repairs now we are sitting on a timebomb for budgets tomorrow.
“Even more galling, it could mean neglect of improvements which parents have paid for. Our children and young people deserve schools that are the best they can be – and which are kept that way.”
But education chiefs insist they are better equipped than ever to overcome the repairs challenge.
Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “For too long the council has been reactive in dealing with this difficult issue but now we are being proactive as for the first time in a generation we know what is required to bring our schools up to a good standard of repair.” He said the plan is to ensure the authority spends the limited money “wisely and where it is needed most over the next five years”.
Next two years will be the worst
THE £17.2 million funding gap will be felt most acutely over the next two years.
New council data indicates that just over £10m of the overall shortfall will hit classrooms in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 sessions, with deficits of around £4.95m and £5.3m respectively. And the gap over the remaining three years of the spending period is likely to be in the region of £7m.
The shortages are only part of a wider children and families maintenance requirement of £29m, which is set to affect key city services such as community and early years facilities, residential units and outdoor centres.
City chiefs allocate £6.7m annually to dealing with day-to-day repairs across the entire council estate.