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Schools funding gets more cash

Contractors say questions remain unanswered over £2bn of private finance as government injects £400 million to kick-start building.

Capital spend on the first 42 schools under the Priority Schools Building Programme will now take the total value of the initiative to £2.4 billion, the government has revealed.

A total of 261 schools, from 587 applicants, will be rebuilt or have their “condition needs met” under the programme. It has been widely publicised that the £2bn programme will be funded through the private finance initiative.

The government said this afternoon that work on the 42 schools being prioritised would be funded through £400 million of capital grant “from efficiency savings”.

A Department for Education spokesman said the £400m has come from efficiency savings made through the Building Schools for the Future and other capital programmes.

The 42 schools include special schools and those in the worst condition most in need of repair.

Construction figures welcomed the announcement today, but urged government to clarify the procurement process so contractors can get building.

UK Contractors Group chief executive Stephen Ratcliffe said:  “After all the delays, today’s announcement starts to fill in the picture on the future of the school building programme.

“Contractors stand ready to start delivering these projects as quickly as possible. We urge government to proceed without delay so we can start upgrading the school network and create local employment opportunities.

“The elephant in the room remains the future of the private finance initiative.  A large number of today’s schemes will be PFI financed but the fate of PFI remains unresolved.”

Steve Beechey, head of education at major contractor Wates, said it is a positive step.

But he said:  “The statement is still light on the detail of how the new school buildings will be procured or the timeframes involved.

“Given that it typically takes at least two years from the time a decision is made to build a school until it is ready to open, it is essential that the government swiftly follows up today’s announcement with more information on how it intends to prioritise and group projects for delivery.”

CBI chief policy director Katja Hall said: “The government must ensure that the procurement process gets underway quickly, is well planned and robust, and that Whitehall departments work together to deliver the programme effectively.”