COUNCILLORS last night decided to bid for money to build a new primary school in Huddersfield.
But Kirklees Council’s leader warned taxpayers would pay “a lot more for a lot longer” because of the controversial way the investment is funded.
The council’s Labour Cabinet yesterday agreed to bid for £40m of Government schools funding.
The investment would include:
A new primary school at Moor End Academy to cope with the growing population of Crosland Moor and Thornton Lodge
Expanding Mount Pleasant Juniors in Lockwood from 490 pupils to 630
Revamping All Saints Catholic College to modernise the school and help it cope with increased numbers of pupils
Expanding Batley Grammar School
Revamping Whitcliffe Mount in Cleckheaton.
The investment would be delivered through the Private Finance Initiative (PFI).
The controversial system involves companies taking on the upfront costs of building, with the Government paying the money back over decades.
Earlier this year the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee’s Conservative committee chairman Andrew Tyrie said taxpayers were being “ripped off” by PFI.
Kirklees leader Clr Mehboob Khan criticised the system at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting at Huddersfield Town Hall.
“This Government said, when in opposition, that PFI didn’t provide value for money,” he said.
“It’s a very difficult decision for us to make. We need the money but this method will cost the taxpayer a lot more for a lot longer to pay off private companies who will make huge profits off these school buildings.
“We’ve been told that PFI is the only show in town. If we don’t submit this bid, then our children will be the ones who suffer.”
The Cabinet voted unanimously to bid for the funding as part of the Government’s Priority School Building Programme.
Ministers believe the new programme will fund up to £3bn worth of new and refitted schools across England.
But the Labour Cabinet yesterday criticised the coalition Government for scrapping the £55bn Building Schools for the Future (BSF), which would have brought £300m of investment into schools in Kirklees.
The council’s deputy leader Clr David Sheard said: “Nearly all high schools would have had some funding through BSF.
“But now the coalition Government has set the criteria meaning we can only get funding for four schools at most.
“This seems like meagre crumbs from the table. I wonder how much we’ve spent propping up banks and tax dodgers.”
Cabinet member for schools Clr Cath Harris said the new programme was “the one and only opportunity to get in any funding over the next five years.”
The Ashbrow Labour woman added that only schools which had not been refurbished within the last 15 years were eligible for investment through the Priority School Building Programme.