Edinburgh school closures could have implications '˜across the UK'

Construction defects which closed schools in Edinburgh could have implications for buildings across the UK, according to the council leader who commissioned an inquiry into the fiasco.

Wednesday, 17th August 2016, 10:51 am
Updated Wednesday, 17th August 2016, 11:53 am
Oxgangs Primary School, Edinburgh, which is one of 17 schools closed in the city due to safety concern. Picture; SWNS


Children have now returned to 17 schools which were closed in April following the collapse of a wall at Oxgangs Primary.

Around 7,500 pupils and more than 600 staff had to be relocated while safety inspections and repairs were carried out.

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Picture; SWNS

Edinburgh City Council leader Andrew Burns said Scottish and UK ministers should scrutinise the findings of the inquiry, led by construction expert John Cole, when it concludes in December.

Similar defects in wall and header ties, which bind brick walls to the main structure, have been identified in other buildings including Lourdes Primary in Glasgow, he said.

The Labour councillor rejected opposition claims that the decision to fund the schools in a public-private partnership (PPP) contributed to the defects.

The schools were built by Miller Construction, which was acquired by Galliford Try in 2014, with maintenance provided by the Edinburgh Schools Partnership (ESP) with partner Amey BPO Services.

Picture; SWNS

Mr Burns said the council will “absolutely” be able to hold private companies accountable for the defects, which have already cost ESP many millions of pounds in withheld council payments.

He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “We have been withholding that unitary charge for several months now, and we are talking several million pounds over the course of May to August while the schools have not been available, so there has been no cost to date to the local authority.

“There has been significant expenses in arranging buses for pupils around the city, but that has all been deducted - in effect - from the unitary charge.”

There are no indications exam results have been affected by the disruption, he said.

He added: “All of the early indications are that this was a construction issue, not a contract issue.

“There were schools closed in other parts of the country, particularly in Glasgow where Lourdes Primary shut after four years of being opened, which was built under traditional procurement, so it’s not as clear cut as the type of finance.

“I think this is more of a construction issue, which is why John Cole’s independent investigation in Edinburgh, I think, will have implications much wider beyond Edinburgh - probably for the whole of Scotland and the rest of the UK.”

He said Lourdes, which was not financed under PPP, had similar problems with wall and header ties.

Mr Burns added: “The Scottish Government has been very supportive, it is crucial to stress that we’ve kept both the Scottish and UK Government concerned about the terms of reference of the independent inquiry.

“I’m quite sure that ministers in both the Scottish and UK Government will continue to show an interest in what comes out of John Cole’s investigation in due course.”