Edinburgh PFI schools crisis – private consortium will foot bill
Edinburgh Schools Partnership to accept "full financial responsibility" for resolving structural issues of PPP1 schools
Edinburgh residents will not foot the bill for the closure of 17 schools in the city, displacing around 7,000 pupils after the Easter holidays.
The schools were closed indefinitely after serious defects were found in the structural integrity of a primary school in Oxgangs.
Private consortium Edinburgh Schools Partnership (ESP), which built and operates the schools as part of the city’s first public private partnership (PPP) contract, has said it will accept full financial responsibility. The costs could spiral into several million pounds.
PPP1, signed in 2001 by the then Labour and Liberal Democrat-led council, saw all 17 schools rebuilt or refurbished by the consortium, which includes Miller Construction, Amey, American financiers Barchan and the Bank of Scotland.
It is thought the council currently spends £40m a year from its education budget in ‘unitary charges’ for use of PPP schools, with total cost over the lifespan of the buildings around £1.2bn.
In a statement, an ESP spokeswoman said: “Edinburgh Schools Partnership will accept full financial responsibility for investigating and resolving these issues to ensure that each and every PPP1 school undergoes all necessary remedial work.
“We would like to apologise to parents and pupils for all of the uncertainty and inconvenience caused, and give our sincere assurances that we will fix these issues.”
Detailed structural surveys are being undertaken this week, with focus initially being placed on secondaries surveys as a priority as S4, S5 and S6 pupils prepare for exams in a few weeks’ time.
The council hopes a clear picture on the secondary schools, including alternative arrangements if required, will be available by Tuesday.
Edinburgh chief executive Andrew Kerr said the safety of pupils and staff had been the first priority.
“I have offered to help [ESP] secure the necessary resources to complete this as quickly as possible,” he said.
“I also reminded them of their contractual and financial obligations and want to assure Edinburgh residents that they will not be left footing the bill.”
Teaching union the EIS has called for an urgent review of all PFI/PPP contracts in Scotland.
General secretary Larry Flanagan said: “The EIS welcomes that the safety of pupils and staff is being treated as a priority, while recognising that these short-notice closures will be highly inconvenient for pupils and parents.
“However, we must also question how such significant defaults could escape normal building control scrutiny and we believe it is now necessary for an urgent review of all PPP/PFI contracts, including the terms of the private maintenance contracts which are often both expensive and extremely restrictive.”
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