Bid costs put
paid to cash
Plans to rebuild Dudley’s schools have been out on hold – because the council can’t afford to bid for funding.
The local authority has drawn up plans to refurbish classrooms at a cost of £200?million, under the Government’s Building Schools for the Future programme.
But it has announced it is suspending the work, because managing the scheme and submitting a detailed business plan would cost millions.
Every school in the country will eventually receive new buildings or improvements to existing stock under the scheme.
But local authorities need to produce detailed business proposals setting out what they plan to do and how it will be funded.
They are then given permission to make deals with private developers, which build or refurbish schools in return for regular payments for around 20 years.
Dudley Council had planned to begin building work in 2010-11. This meant delivering its proposal to the Department for Schools, Education and Families by the end of November.
But despite preparing for the bid since 2003, when it began consulting local schools, the council has decided to back out at the last moment.
It ruled that the cost of managing the bid was too high, particularly when finances were tight because of the state of the economy. The cost is partly a result of the Government changing the rules, so that the council would need to revise its original proposals.
A report presented to a meeting of Dudley Council’s cabinet, which includes the leader and other senior councillors, warned the authority would need to spend at least £1.6?million initially, and more later.
It said: “These costs are required to fund external consultancy in addition to staffing and other internal expenditure.”
The Government has now ordered authorities to focus on so-called National Challenge schools – schools where fewer than 30 per cent of pupils get five good GCSEs – which meant Dudley would need to revise some of its plans.
As a result council has decided to defer the bid for at least a year, which means building work will be delayed for at least a year too.
The decision prompted fierce criticism from MP Lynda Waltho (Lab Stourbridge). She said: “I am furious that the council has decided not to apply for funding this time round. This is a huge opportunity for Dudley and they have thrown it away.”