School rebuild cost row

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SHEFFIELD spent more than £29 million on its programme to rebuild every secondary school in the city - before a single brick was laid, according to research by the Conservatives.

Of the 140 councils which responded to the party’s questions, Sheffield’s was the highest figure in the country.

Consultants’ fees for rebuilding the 25 schools cost £12 million, while £10.5 million was paid to architects and £2 million to lawyers.

In Barnsley £2.7 million was spent on legal fees, the third highest figure discovered in the research.

The Conservatives carried out an investigation to justify their decision to scrap the Building Schools for the Future programme last summer, which cancelled plans to refurbish secondaries in Rotherham and Doncaster.

The party claims that a total of £3.5 billion would have been wasted if BSF had not been halted.

Programmes in Sheffield and Barnsley escaped the axe because they were already so far advanced.

Nationally the Tories say £485 million nationally was spent on admin fees rather than bricks and mortar.

The Star revealed details of BSF spending in Sheffield last year - but supporters argued that high costs were inevitable because the city was a ‘pathfinder’ for the programme, learning lessons which benefited councils which followed later.

Sheffield opted for individual legal agreements for each separate school, which while more expensive, reduced the risk of projects running up long-term overspends.

MP for Sheffield South East Clive Betts said schools needed a high level of investment after 18 years of neglect during the 1980s and 90s.

“Incredible improvements to school buildings have come about because of Building Schools for the Future,” he said.

Graham Sinclair, assistant director for business strategy for children, young people and families at Sheffield council, said the figures were a “drop in the ocean” in the context of the overall cost.

“It is also money that needs to be spent in order to make sure a massive scheme like this runs smoothly without any unnecessary waste at tax payers’ expense,” said Mr Sinclair.

Tim Riley, from the Local Education Parnership, said: “Compared to commercial building this is less than half of what would normally be spent on these kind of costs so represents good value for money.”