Lancashire school repair cash 'will not fix all of the biggest problems'

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Almost £18m is expected to be spent on the most urgent repairs needed by Lancashire’s maintained schools over the next year.

However, the cash will not be enough to clear all of the “high priority issues” affecting the non-academy schools for which Lancashire County Council is responsible, a meeting of the authority’s cabinet was told.

County Hall is expecting a £14m grant from the Department for Education (DfE) as part of the government’s Schools Condition Led Programme for 2024/25. It is also planning to use around £4m of previous funding it received for school repairs, which was never spent, to cover the cost of the design work required for the most complex projects.

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The nature of the work needed by some of the schools - and an aim to minimise disruption during term time - means that a number of the planned repairs will not be completed until 2025/26.

Lancashire's schools would need more than money than they are expecting to be brought up to scratchLancashire's schools would need more than money than they are expecting to be brought up to scratch
Lancashire's schools would need more than money than they are expecting to be brought up to scratch

The authority says outstanding high-priority problems with its school buildings will be kept under review and considered for any future remediation programmes.

The county council assessed condition data for its maintained schools and officers drew up a “Priority 1” schedule of repairs - defined as “urgent work that will prevent immediate closure of premises and/or address an immediate high risk to the health and safety of occupants and/or remedy a serious breach of legislation”.

However, a report to cabinet members noted that the “finite budget” meant that it “would not be possible to address all high priority issues in all schools”.

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The list of establishments where work is expected to be carried out was restricted to a private section of the cabinet meeting where the matter was discussed, as a result of commercial confidentiality in relation to the procurement of contractors to undertake it.

County Hall says it knows from experience of delivering the condition-led programme since it was established in 2011 that the “complexities” of assessing existing buildings meant there is a risk that further Priority 1 issues may be revealed once works begin. For that reason, a “significant contingency” fund will be factored into the budget

As in previous years, if a school’s heating system needs wholesale replacement, a low-carbon option will be considered. However, the report acknowledged that there cannot be a one-size-fits all approach to such work in school buildings, because some facilities would require extensive preparation work in order to allow for a greener heating installation.

There is also an allowance within the programme for further investigations and specialist surveys to be undertaken on those buildings deemed to be at potential risk because of their age or the way they were constructed.

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The exact amount to be allocated to Lancashire County Council from the government will be confirmed at a later date. The standalone local authorities covering Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen will receive their own, separate school condition funding allocations.