Massive capital school pledge - despite £200m bill

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Edinburgh’s education chief is “determined” to push ahead with plans to replace and renovate all of the city’s depleted schools - despite facing a £200 million bill.

The city council’s Education, Schools and Family Committee is set to agree £25 million to be spent on improving sport facilities at Trinity Academy, as well as work at Castlebrae High School.

The authority is facing a long list of schools in need of replacement or repairs. Currie High School has structural problems, Trinity Academy has a lack of adequate facilities – while work is also needed at Castlebrae, Wester Hailes Education Centre (WHEC), Liberton High School, Balerno High School and Leith Academy. The majority will not be repaired until next year’s budget has been agreed, if enough financial support is in place.

The council faces an anxious wait for funding to be released from the Scottish Government and can only make up any funding gap from its own finances.

Committee convener Cllr Ian Perry, said: “The intention would be to build all schools on that list but that would be dependent on us releasing funding.

“The total bill for these schools is £200 million. What we as a council need to release will be dependent on our bid into the Scottish Government, which we will find out by the end of this year. We will get much more clarity by the end of this year, which we will work into the budget next year.”

He added: “There’s an urgency to get started. There’s pressure from parent councils to make a start and there’s a frustration growing.

“We want to use £25 million to show that we are serious about replacing schools in Edinburgh. We don’t know the final amount that we will get but we are determined that if it’s financially possibly, to deliver all the schools.”

The committee is set to agree the initial £25 million will be spent to get work started at Castlebrae and Trinity.

Cllr Perry added: “What we are agreeing to do is start the design work for Trinity. That takes up to six months to get the design and there’s a consultation process with head teachers and all staff and parent council and any other interested parties.”

Labour MSP Daniel Johnson said: “The council simply doesn’t have the capital funding to deliver these new schools. The fault with that clearly lies with the Scottish Government, who for the first year since devolution have no capital programme for new schools. That leaves the council with just £25m to deliver over £200m of commitments.”

He added: “The councillors must also have a close look at these rankings, and not just blindly follow what officials tell them.”