By Martin Kelly
A Glasgow MSP is demanding answers from Labour controlled Glasgow City Council (GCC) after it emerged the authority did not submit a bid for school build funding to the Scottish Futures Trust.
Glasgow SNP MSP Bob Doris said he was “seriously concerned” that the local authority did not bid in the latest round of funding despite being formally invited to do so in February.
Labour run GCC instead submitted one ‘variant bid’ for a project the council was already committed to.
The SFT is currently completing plans for allocating funding to local authorities as part of the third phase of the £1.25bn scheme to replace schools in disrepair.
Mr Doris was alerted to the situation after receiving a query from Wyndford and District Community Council who were seeking the re-introduction of a primary school in their area. The MSP immediately contacted Glasgow Council asking what bids it had made to the SFT.
Mr Doris said:
“I am seriously concerned that there was no single school bid from Glasgow City Council to the latest round of SFT funding.
“Every council was asked in February to prepare bids for submission by the July deadline. This is a huge allocation of money and local authorities across Scotland will be climbing over each other to get at the cash.
“Labour’s school closure programme in 2009 is still fresh in the minds of many of my constituents, especially those have had to send their kids out of their communities to go to school.
“Between February and July this year, instead of working hard to prepare funding bids for new Glasgow Schools, Labour councillors were working on their manifesto for the council elections which promised to replace or refurbish every Primary school in Glasgow. The electorate now have to hold them to account on this.
“The SNP is ambitious about school building. We built more schools in our first four years in office than the last administration managed in eight years. But the Scottish Government’s ambition needs to be matched by local authorities.”
The SFT not-for-profit public procurement model was introduced by the SNP in 2008 to replace the discredited and expensive Private Finance Initiative (PFI). The SFT announced savings to the taxpayer of £129 million in 2010/11 which prompted a third phase of funding for up to 12 extra new schools across Scotland.
All of Scotland’s local authorities were contacted in February this year inviting them to enter bids to the SFT’s for funding for schools in their own area.
Responding to Mr Doris’s query, Maureen McKenna, Executive Director of Education at GCC said:
“Officers have been tasked with bringing forward a programme of prioritised investment for the Council’s consideration in the Autumn of this year. This investment programme will not only need to take cognisance of the condition and suitability of the existing education estate but also reflect the population growth and demand for school places predicted over the next 10 years.”
Ms McKenna added: “Given the timescales I have outlined for bringing forward investment proposals for the Council’s consideration, Autumn of this year, this did not reconcile with the timescales for Glasgow submitting a single school bid for Phase 3 SFT funding.”
Glasgow SNP Education Spokesperson, Cllr Mhairi Hunter added:
“I welcome each and every opportunity to improve Glasgow’s schools and I hope that the ‘variant bid’ the Council has submitted will succeed. But I’m disappointed the Labour administration did not seize the chance to bid for new school builds. Could they really not think of any school that was suitable for a like-for-like replacement?
“The people of Glasgow are entitled to their fair share of this money. In the current financial climate every chance to secure additional funding for our city is vital and should be grasped – especially when the administration has made such a firm commitment to renew the whole primary school estate.”