£250m repairs for Derbyshire schools to tackle 'ticking time bomb'
A MASSIVE £250 million could be invested in rebuilding and repairing Derbyshire schools over the next decade.
Tory councillor Mike Longden, county council cabinet member for education, has pledged the additional money if his Tory administration is returned to power after this May's elections.
He said he had been grappling daily with the ever-growing problem of decay in the county's 400 primary and secondary schools, which currently have a backlog of repairs amounting to £175 million.
"This is despite investing £100 million in rebuild and repairs in the past four years," said Mr Longden.
"But the main problem is that, without the £250 million major investment, as fast as we are able to repair schools, the backlog continues to increase and is a ticking time bomb."
About £15 million is given to the county council from central Government each year to carry out repairs, although the settlement for 2013-2014 is £17 million. But each year the bill for repairs across the county's schools increases by about £30 million.
Mr Longden said: "This means that, each year, the backlog increases by between £13 million and £15 million.
"We are having to be more creative with the money we have got but we will continue to go backwards with repairs unless a much bigger capital sum is available.
"So I have discussed developing a strategic building programme with officers so that an extra £100 million would come from council coffers, borrowing and the receipts from the sale of unused buildings.
"This would then be added to the potential £15 million we will get each year as usual from the Government, giving us £250 million to plan a proper programme of repairs."
Councillors will be asked to approve the building programme for the latest Government-allocated funding of £17 million later this month.
Last year, they approved repairs to schools which included: Anthony Gell School, Wirksworth, cladding and roofing; Cloudside Junior, Sandiacre, roofing; Dallimore Primary, Ilkeston, replacement windows; Howitt Community Primary, Heanor, replacement windows; Brooklands Primary, Long Eaton, roofing; Repton Primary, roofing; Findern Primary, electrical and heating upgrade; Highfields School, rewiring; and Stanton Vale, electrical and heating upgrade.
Mr Longden said: "Other schools will have repairs this coming year, and some of those on last year's list may be in line for more.
"We have already approved a five-year programme of staged school replacement at Aldercar Community Language School and Glossop College.
"We're waiting to see if work can go ahead to replace Alfreton Grange School and there will be programmes of replacement and renewal at special schools like Holbrook Centre for Autism and Alfreton Park School. But we are only scratching the surface."
Mr Longden said the bottom line was that "investment had to be made now".
He added: "I inherited a big problem in the county but I do believe this is a national problem. But I am determined to give pupils the buildings and information technology equipment they need for the 21st century.
"If we can carry out a £250 million building programme over the next few years, it will be the first real chance to make serious inroads into the backlog of repairs that has been continuing to mount each day."