Council agrees settlement after schools closed due to safety fears

Written by Gemma Fraser on 29 November 2018 in News

Edinburgh council has agreed terms with the company responsible for the 17 schools which were closed as a result of structural problems

Image credit: City of Edinburgh Council

The company responsible for the 17 Edinburgh schools which were closed as a result of safety concerns has reached a settlement agreement with the council.

Ten primary schools, five secondaries and two additional needs schools were closed in 2016 after building defects came to light.

The construction issues were discovered in schools which were built or refurbished under the public private partnership (PPP1) agreement.

 

The 17 schools were closed after Edinburgh Schools Partnership (ESP), which built and manages the schools, was unable to give safety guarantees.

Structural problems were first discovered in January 2016 after part of a wall blew off Oxgangs Primary during Storm Gertrude.

The school was closed just two months later after an investigation found problems with the walls. Three more schools, all part of the same PPP1 contract, closed less than a week later.

The City of Edinburgh Council has now announced that it has reached a settlement agreement with ESP, which will go before councillors on December 4.

Amongst the key terms of the agreement is that all structural and other defect rectification works have been carried out at the sole expense of ESP or their subcontractors.

The terms also include a commitment to a new independent inspection and monitoring process throughout the PPP1 school estate and agreement that the council will keep “an agreed sum of money” regarding the structural defects and fire-related works.

The proposed settlement sums exceed the associated closure-related costs incurred by the council, which was more than £3m.

Money from the settlement will be used to carry out any further remedial works identified on buildings across the whole council estate including schools.

Council leader Adam McVey said: “This has been a lengthy and complex process but I’m pleased that we’ve been able to reach an agreement with ESP.

“This settlement provides significant benefits to our schools and local communities and crucially means the works carried out on the PPP1 schools came at no cost to the council.

“There will now be additional inspections on the PPP1 buildings and increased opening hours for those facilities.

“Reaching this agreement also means we can avoid potential lengthy and costly legal proceedings for both parties and return to our focus of providing world-class facilities for our young people.”

A spokesperson for ESP said: “This is a significant and positive development for all of the schools impacted by the closures in 2016.

“As the council report shows, we have made strenuous efforts to reach an agreement that reflects our commitment to work in partnership with the council and avoids the need for difficult and expensive legal action.

“In particular, the contractual enhancements to the existing monitoring framework provide the basis for ESP and our suppliers to continue the process of restoring confidence to pupils, parents and staff.

“We would like to reiterate our apologies to all those affected by the closures and say again that the safety of the children and staff throughout the PPP1 school estate remains our primary concern.”

Edinburgh Green councillor Gavin Corbett said: “Almost three years after the first serious wall collapse, we can never lose sight of the huge upheaval and stress which the PPP schools fiasco caused.

“On top of that, ESP has failed to be available and answerable to the school communities affected.  So whatever ESP now agrees to do, there’s a huge gulf in trust that I don’t see ever being fully bridged.”

He added: “On the face of it, the draft settlement looks like progress, more than meeting the costs faced by the council, introducing tighter inspection and reporting arrangements for school buildings and including a modest increase in opening hours for out of school use.”

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