£12m to find in project to build Northumberland schools

THE cost of replacing three Northumberland schools due to a funding shortfall is likely to attract a bill of more than £12m.

THE cost of replacing three Northumberland schools due to a funding shortfall is likely to attract a bill of more than £12m.

Northumberland County Council has estimated that £12.3m will have to be found towards new builds at Alnwick, Bedlington and Prudhoe, to meet costs which will not be covered by already pledged government and private finance funding.

The authority will tomorrow discuss three options of how that figure would be met – covering it itself, making loans to the schools or asking them to pay.

The council agreed to apply to the Government’s new £2bn Priority School Building Programme last October on behalf of the Duchess’s Community High School at Alnwick, Bedlingtonshire High and Prudhoe High.

In May, the Government announced that all three would be included in the scheme, although it has since been announced that Prudhoe will not be rebuilt in the first round.

Council leaders pledged shortly afterwards that they would plug any funding gap.

In September, it emerged that the pledged money would not cover several aspects of the rebuild projects.

A report to tomorrow’s meeting of the council’s executive says that authority leaders have lobbied the Government to provide funding towards these parts of the works, given the financial challenges they are facing, but to no avail.

It puts the costs of such work at the three sites at £12.3m and advises members that this could either be met by the council contributing £11.9m, or by each school giving up to or just over £4m, from their budgets, or loans from the authority.

The council is required to tell the Government whether it is prepared to meet the cost of road access to the new Alnwick school by the end of the month, otherwise that site may not be included in the first round.

Yesterday Ian Walker, chairman of governors there, said: “We would hope that the council pick up the tab. There are some things that are not met by the PFI but because of the PFI Northumberland will get three new schools.”

The agreed funding had saved the council money on rebuilding the schools, he added, meaning it is “bound” to make some contribution.


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