Honest, it will be only a few words (with a scattering of links)
As far as I can tell, there are a couple of issues regarding the closure of Edinburgh schools (and possibly other schools, hospitals and anything else built under the Labour/Lib Dem PPP scheme)
Firstly, build quality and lack thereof. I’m not saying all builders are cowboys and cut corners but their trade has had a reputation in the past and big profit making companies are not known for going the extra mile. That these builds were self-regulated would seem the height of stupidity, if it were not for the funding method which really takes the award for that.
Malcolm Fraser – an architect who resigned in 2007 from a Scottish Executive advisory panel – said today in the Edinburgh News “There was no care or concern going into the buildings themselves. Often good Victorian or even 1960s schools, like Craigmount was, were being replaced by inferior contemporary buildings…”
Anyone who has ever been in charge of a build knows there needs to be regular inspections to make sure corners weren’t cut. Now whether it was the Scottish Executive – under the currently silent Jack McConnell who was very keen on it at the time – or the Labour run Edinburgh council someone took their eye off the ball and in a big way.
Schools should not fall down within 10 years not even with the storms we get.
As for the “Ruth Davidson is lovely and not one of those nasty conservatives” party suggesting that school inspectors check for structural faults, what planet are they on? These people have enough to look at, yes huge gaping holes where the walls have fallen down are an easy spot and possibly if there is mould in a room, but I doubt they come equipped with whatever engineering apparatus is required to spot ongoing structural damage. May as well ask the AA to check the Forth Road bridge while they travel across it too?
So next is the separate issue of the funding of the builds. Now please bear in mind I’m not an economist (or even a pet food salesman.)
I know the Tories originally set up PFIs and despite Labour’s initial opposition they continued with them when they got elected as PPPs, but this bit of financial skulduggery does not make any sense to me at all. They may as well have borrowed the money off a payday lender the interest rates are astronomical.
The Guardian reported in 2012 that the UK’s public sector would pay £301,343,154,097 for existing Private Finance Initiative repayments.
When Councils are screaming that money is tight, it is the repayments on these scheme add additional pressure. An FOI request to Glasgow City Council repayments made in April this year shows 2015/16 repayments to be £52,251,570 for the Educational Services PPP contract, with another £783,773,550 to be paid over the next 15 years. This is approximately 3.5% of the authority’s total budget of £1,483,381,200 (page 4).
Just for your delectation I’ve also included a report from Unison in October 2007 on the aggregate costs of PFI/PPP projects in Scotland.
Finally, it is reported that Edinburgh City Council will reclaim money from the PFI consortium set up for constructing and maintenance of the schools. I should bloody well think so! £360 million deal and 17 schools shut, disrupting 9,000 pupils. To say it’s not good enough is a huge understatement.