Welsh councils face rising costs of school repairs
- 29 September 2010
- From the section Wales
Hundreds of school buildings have major defects or are at risk of imminent failure, according to Welsh councils.
Every secondary in Pembrokeshire and Merthyr Tydfil had "major shortcomings" while more than half the primaries in Carmarthenshire, Neath Port Talbot and Ceredigion need "considerable" repairs.
The headteachers' union said schools were suffering from years of neglect.
The Welsh Assembly Government said it had committed more than £700m to school capital projects in the past 18 months.
Details of the surveys, obtained by BBC Wales, also asked councils for details of the cost of outstanding school repairs.
Of the 12 authorities which responded, Swansea faces the highest bill to clear its maintenance backlog at £147m, with Manselton Primary School in the city needing over £7m worth of improvements, greater than any other primary school.
The council said it had proposals to close Manselton and Cwmbrwla primary schools and replace them with a new-build single school on both sites by September 2012.
The total school repair bill reached £517m, meaning the Wales-wide figure is likely to be around £1bn.
The surveys were commissioned by the Welsh Assembly Government as councils draw up 10-15-year plans to improve school buildings.
Local authorities will have to bid for money to finance their school building plans from the assembly government's 21st Century Schools Programme, with the first stage of the process beginning in December.
Carmarthenshire council is seeking funding for £336m of school building, while in Monmouthshire it is estimated £300m will be needed.
Councils are likely to seek around £3bn in total on future school building projects.
However, Chris Llewelyn from the Welsh Local Government Association warned that the 21st Century Schools Programme, which it is running in co-operation with the assembly government, will not have the funds to meet expectations.
"Capital funding is going to be around 50% less than was expected and there are big challenges that need to be addressed so inevitably there is going to be disappointment," he said.
"If schools can't be built or refurbished there is pressure then on the maintenance budget, which draws from the same pot, so it makes it a very difficult balancing act."
A Welsh Assembly Government spokesperson said: "We have made a commitment to deliver schools fit for the 21st Century and we are determined to make that happen.
"Over the last 18 months we have committed over £700m in new capital projects for schools in Wales.
"This very significant investment will provide authorities with the means to build new schools and improve school facilities.
"It is worth noting the repair and maintenance information provides a snapshot of the position as regards existing buildings.
"It does not take account of the need to remove surplus school places and to invest in new build and renovation projects which are necessary if all school buildings are to be fit for purpose.
"In many cases investment in new buildings or renewal of existing buildings will remove the requirement for repairs and maintenance work because existing buildings will be replaced or brought up to standard as a result of major investment."