�32million repair backlog for schools

SCHOOLS across North Somerset may have to go without key repair works as the council faces up to a maintenance backlog of �32million.

The capital funds given by central Government to schools in the district have been slashed by 70 per cent, while the North Somerset Council budget for maintenance has shrunk to �2million.

The authority’s executive member for education, Jeremy Blatchford, has admitted the council is struggling to undergo repairs due to the financial shortfall, but says that all schools are currently in a ‘safe’ state.

The Government’s Department for Education capital funding has been slashed from �2.1million in 2010/11 to �634,964 this year, meaning there is only a pot of around �2.6million available to fix problems in schools.

That money is now collected in a central pot, from where it will be used to fund work in schools that are in most need of repair work.

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Cllr Blatchford said: “In the light of a Government settlement which we just do not understand, and the savings we unfortunately are having to make, we will have to prioritise the work we can do.

“If we had to undergo major work on a school which really needed the work, then I would have to go to the leader of the council and ask him for money to be taken from a budget for something else. This unfortunately is the situation we are in.

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“If we attempted to do all of that repair work, that would take out all of the library service budget and most of the leisure budget too.”

Ashcombe Primary School in Earlham Grove has endured a series of ongoing problems ranging from damp and rot to leaking roofs to badgers and foxes digging earth from underneath buildings.

Pat Brown, the chairman of the school’s governors, said: “The school is completely safe for all of our children, but our concern is for the future.

“As we are in an old building there are a number of issues linked to that that will need maintenance work, and it is very concerning that the money for repairs has shrunk so much - we are very much aware of the financial situation but our budget has shrunk from �44,000 to �8,000. It is a huge drop.”

Mike Lyall, Earlham Grove’s ward member on Weston Town Council said: “This is very concerning as it will not help the deprivation issue which is affecting areas of the town and which will be magnified by work not being done to schools. It is clear that work will be needed at the school.”

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