Friday, 2 August 2013

'£10m a year - for what?'



Just weeks after the3towns revealed the ongoing multi-million-pound cost of four North Ayrshire schools built using the discredited Public Private Partnership (PPP) method of funding, a Saltcoats resident has questioned the level of service being provided by maintenance contractors.

In 2006, the Council’s previous Labour administration signed a contract with a private consortium to build and maintain four schools. On completion, the schools – St Matthew’s Academy in Saltcoats, Stanley Primary School in Ardrossan, Arran High School and Dreghorn’s Greenwood Academy – had a capital value of just £80m, but with a 30-year maintenance agreement as part of the deal, plus interest charges, the total outlay from the public purse by the time the contract completes in 2036 will be in the region of £400m. The maintenance element of the contract costs the Council around £10m a year, which is paid to Mitie, a facilities management company.

However, a near neighbour of St Matthew’s Academy has told the3towns of watching as two appliances from Fire & Rescue Scotland recently sat in the school car park for over an hour before a representative of the maintenance company turned-up to let them into the premises.

The Saltcoats resident said, “It was a shock to see two fire appliances pull into St Matthew’s, but even more shocking was that they had to wait for more than an hour to gain access to the building. After approximately one-hour and ten-minutes, a Mitie van arrived and the driver then let the fire service personnel into the school.

“If there had been a real fire they would have had to smash their way into the building as there was no-one there from the maintenance company. If they had to wait for Mitie to show up the school could have been burned to the ground in a real emergency.”

In June the3towns revealed that, six years into the 30-year contract for the now notorious North Ayrshire Schools PPP Project, local taxpayers have still to fork-out £337,417,000.

Figures contained in North Ayrshire Council’s Draft Accounts for the financial year 2012/13 reveal payments still to be made by the local authority, in terms of the agreed contract, include £141,164,000 for ‘Services’ related to operation and maintenance of the four schools, and a staggering £121,788,000 in interest charges. Of the Capital expenditure - the cost of building the schools - £74,465,000 remains outstanding.

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