Wednesday, 12 November 2014

The Cost of Saying 'NO' ....

The Daily Telegraph is up in arms that the Scottish Education minister, Mr Russell, pointed out to the Labour Party dominated COSLA Education Committee that the reason there is little or no help for the mess many Labour Councils find themselves in with their education budgets is simply because Westminster sets the Scottish Education budget via the Barnet formula and consequentials. In other words the 'No' supporting Labour Councils have made their own bed of nails and the increasing squeeze on their education budgets is a direct result of voting 'NO'.

Labour Council's in Scotland are in a particular mess because they overstretched their New School PFI commitments on the assumption there would always be a Labour dominated government at Holyrood to bail them out. Many of the PFI build schools which were commissioned are already no longer fit for purpose either structurally or in terms of class room accommodation, routinely within a year of opening or in some cases on opening, as pupils at the new Clydeview Academy PFI build quickly discovered.

My local primary school PFI build (commissioned under the then Labour lead council) was supposed to have three classrooms and a communal area. Local pressure upped this to four and the day it opened the 'communal area' was already in use as a fifth additional classroom. Now there is a waiting list for the school and local children who can not be placed are being bused out to the small, local village primary schools this new building was supposed to be replacing. The new PFI school building has already had to shut for repairs to its roof, a failed heating system and has a number of other systemic problems which continually require attention. The building is not yet five years old.

The Scottish Labour Councils signed up to back of a fag paper PFI contracts which ended up costing 3x as much, on average, as the initial PFI estimate and at least twice as much as the standard borrowing package previously used by councils to finance capital projects, like new builds. West Lothian Council managed to buy themselves out of their PFI Education contract and will keep over £3 billion in their education budget over the 25 years the PFI project would have run. On the basis of the size of money retained by West Lothian in their budget (at 2008 figures) by cancelling their PFI Education contract, imagine how much money PFI is sucking out of the education budgets of North Lanarkshire, Glasgow City or Inverclyde. Money which is then not available to meet staff salaries, infra-structure needs, maintenance of non PFI school buildings and school related activities.
Gordon Brown's PFI scam has not just sucked vast monies from NHS care budgets across the UK but also from front line education budgets.

So in effect Mr Russell has a valid point, Labour Councils who 'officially' backed the 'No Vote' have made their own bed of nails by selling their education budgets off to the bankers and corporates in return for school buildings which are not fit for purpose, they do not own and whose land now belongs to the PFI company at the end of 25 years - not the council - and will just have to lie on it.

1 comment:

  1. On the subject of PFI build schools, I live opposite one which was opened around seven years ago. As I am retired I can see the going on there which may not be obvious to everyone. We had last Winter someone in the rain blowing water off the playground. Never a week goes by when there is someone from the contracting company doing something to the building. It was built along with another school, and both were over subscribed by the first year. This in Dunfermline where the local council are closing two schools. Considering that one of the schools is the sort that I attended, a Victorian building which was probably built around the 1890's perhaps they should keep the building and upgrade it, but of course I forgot no way to see any brown envelopes that way.