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Bridget_Phillipson_MP_PAC_Capital_Funding_for_Schools_13-03-2017.pngBridget Phillipson, Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South, has raised serious questions about the financial impact of the government’s Priority Schools Building Programme (PSBP) during an inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee into capital funding for schools.

Bridget raised concerns with Jonathan Slater, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education, that the government was allocating further money for the construction of new free schools at a time when his own Department estimates that almost £7billion is needed to bring every existing school in the country up to a satisfactory standard, and a further £7billion to bring them up to good condition.

According to a report published by the National Audit Office last month, the deterioration in the condition of the school estate is a significant risk to long-term value for money for the British taxpayer. With pupil numbers on the rise, local authorities are also facing significant challenges in providing sufficient school places on time. The report also raised questions about the variation between local authorities in the cost of delivering capital projects for schools and the quality of many PSBP rebuilds.

The financial difficulties incurred by PSBP schools were laid bare during yesterday’s inquiry by the former and acting headteachers of Hetton School in Sunderland.

Hetton School was originally listed in Labour’s Building Schools for Future project, which was scrapped by the Coalition Government in 2010, before the government announced in 2012 that it would be one of the first secondary schools in the country to be built under the first wave of the PBSB. One of 46 schools built under a private finance ‘PF2’ scheme, the new Hetton School building was finally opened at the beginning of this academic year.

During yesterday’s inquiry, acting headteacher Craig Knowles welcomed the new building but told the Committee that the school was struggling to meet the ongoing costs of the PF2 private finance scheme, and that redundancies at the school might be necessary to balance the books.Phil_Keay___Craig_Knowles_Hetton_School_PAC_Capital_Funding_for_Schools_13-03-2017.png

He also highlighted the unforeseen additional costs that the school has had to bear since construction was completed. As PSBP funding only covers the costs of a physical, unfurnished building, the school was very reliant on Sunderland City Council to cover the additional cost of £325,000 for new desks, tables, IT equipment and other furnishings.

In his evidence, former headteacher Phil Keay highlighted the amount of classroom time that was lost over the last six years while the school was waiting for a new building. He drew the Committee’s attention to the frequency with which the old building had to be evacuated because of structural problems and safety concerns over gas leaks and loose asbestos ceiling tiles, and the damaging impact that this had on a generation of children.

Mr Keay also called for the DfE to introduce improved feedback procedures so that schools such as Hetton can share their experiences and improve the programme for the future.

Speaking after the inquiry, Bridget Phillipson MP said:

“It’s clear that the Department for Education has much work to do to ensure that there are enough school places available for our children in the future.

“Today’s inquiry raised serious questions about whether the Department’s Priority Schools Building Programme is equipped to deal with this challenge.

“Given the financial pressures that existing schools are under, it beggars belief that last week’s Budget allocated extra funding for the construction of new free schools.

“Hetton School is a prime example of why the DfE needs to think carefully going forward.

“The government’s misguided decision to cancel Labour’s successful Building Schools for the Future project in 2010 led to years of delay that had a real impact on this school’s ability to provide pupils with a safe and stable learning environment.

“A whole generation of schoolchildren suffered while the government struggled to fund a new capital programme.

“I also hope the DfE will heed calls from today’s witnesses for an improved feedback process so that we can see changes in the future.

“Over the weeks to come, my committee colleagues and I will assess today’s evidence before publishing a final report.”

A video recording of the inquiry, including the evidence from Mr Keay and Mr Knowles, can be accessed here.

The NAO Report and further information on its findings can also be accessed here.

Hetton School was officially opened by Bridget Phillipson MP in January 2017. Click here for more.

PAC Bulletin: Bridget Phillipson MP sounds the alarm on capital funding for schools

Bridget Phillipson, Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South, has raised serious questions about the financial impact of the government’s Priority Schools Building Programme (PSBP) during an inquiry by...

Bridget_Phillipson_Coffee_Morning_Houghton_March_2017.jpgOn Saturday 4 March I held my twelfth coffee morning on anti-social behaviour and policing at Kepier Hall. Almost seventy local residents came along and shared their views on issues affecting our community, and it was great to be joined by PC Simon Watson who addressed some of the concerns raised about anti-social behaviour.

A variety of topics were discussed during the event, including the resources available to police to tackle anti-social behaviour, problems relating to parking, traffic and motorbike activity, and the visibility of local police officers.

A recurring theme throughout these discussions was the financial pressures on policing, education and local government. Cuts to services present a number of challenges in relation to tackling anti-social behaviour, from making it more difficult to organise activities for young people, to ensuring the police have a strong presence in our community to deter disorder. I can assure you that I will continue to raise these issues in Parliament, and make the case for greater investment in important public services

Bridget_Phillipson_Coffee_Morning_Houghton_March_2017_(2).jpg

It is clear that Northumbria Police are working hard to tackle anti-social behaviour, and they welcome engagement with local communities to address this problem. Local residents are encouraged to make use of the non-emergency 101 number, or Police and Community Together (PACT) meetings to ensure the police are fully aware of problems in your community. You can find details of future PACT meetings via the following link: https://www.northumbria.police.uk/search/?q=pact

If you would like to read more on the points we discussed during this coffee morning, or would be interested in attending a future event, please email me at bridget.phillipson.mp@parliament.uk with your contact details. 

 

Bridget Phillipson MP holds coffee morning in Kepier Hall

On Saturday 4 March I held my twelfth coffee morning on anti-social behaviour and policing at Kepier Hall. Almost seventy local residents came along and shared their views on issues...

Today’s Budget is a damning indictment of seven years of economic failure from the Tories.

When they first came into power over half a decade ago, we were promised that the UK’s budget deficit would be eliminated by 2015.

Instead, public sector net borrowing this financial year now stands at £50billion, while the national debt has risen to over £1.5trillion – that’s more than 85% of our GDP.

After his predecessor failed to meet any of his fiscal targets in the last Parliament, Philip Hammond has abandoned all hope of balancing the budget during the current one.

Far from living within our means, the Tories are plunging the UK ever deeper into debt.

This failure to get a grip on the nation’s finances leaves the British economy poorly placed to cope with the turbulence that two years of Brexit negotiations are bound to bring.

It has also led to funding crises in the NHS, social care, local government, schools and policing.

Despite this, the Chancellor today refused to reverse George Osborne’s inheritance tax cuts, which will cost the Treasury £1billion by 2021, and somehow found £320m of extra cash for new grammar schools at a time when state schools are facing a £3billion shortfall.

Meanwhile, working people continue to suffer from chronic low pay, with wages still lower in real terms than before the 2008 financial crisis.

According to the OECD, the UK was the only developed country with a growing economy but falling real wages between 2007 and 2015.

It is a disgrace that in one of the world’s richest countries, six million people are now earning less than the living wage and four million children are living in poverty.

Rising fuel and food prices on the back of a weak pound mean that things are only going to get harder for Britain’s working families.

Another huge failure is the productivity gap between the United Kingdom and Eurozone countries, which narrowed under Labour but has widened again under the Tories.

Compared to the EU average the UK has fallen from four per cent ahead in 2010 to one per cent behind in 2015.

This really matters, as it determines how much companies can pay in wages.

The British people deserve better than this.

I believe we should take a different approach by rebalancing the British economy through strategic investment in infrastructure, housing and employment - all of which would help drive up productivity levels.

Labour will also reverse Tory cuts to education and skills, which are so critical to our future economic prosperity.

The Tories are presiding over a lost economic decade in this country.

Only Labour has the vision to rebuild our economy so that it works for everyone, not just the privileged few.

Bridget Phillipson MP: Budget sums up seven years of Tory economic failure

Today’s Budget is a damning indictment of seven years of economic failure from the Tories. When they first came into power over half a decade ago, we were promised that...


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