Schools to be rebuilt despite budget cuts

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A MULTI-million pound programme to rebuild six Sheffield secondary schools will be completed with only minor cost reductions, banishing fears the project faced dramatic cuts.

The £68 million improvements will go ahead as the final phase of the Building Schools for the Future programme, which has rebuilt or refurbished every secondary in the city over a decade.

The final schools to be upgraded are Bradfield, Handsworth Grange, Notre Dame, Birley, Meadowhead and Westfield.

After meetings between Lib Dem councillors and the funding body Partnership for Schools, savings of between three and five per cent were agreed for the six schemes.

City education chiefs had been warned before Christmas that spending on the schools could be cut by 40 per cent.

Executive director of children’s services Dr Sonia Sharp said then the authority was being urged to scale back its plans and that some campuses would be refurbished instead of rebuilt.

Lib Dem Cabinet member for children’s services Coun Colin Ross said the agreed reductions would largely be met from efficiency savings.

“There will be little impact to the outcomes of the investment. Work on the six schools is going ahead as scheduled.”

Coun Ross accused Labour politicians of ‘scaremongering,’ by claiming work would be completed ‘on the cheap’.

“This is excellent news. These minimal savings should be met within the existing budgets and we will still get the outcomes for schools we originally planned for. Local Lib Dem councillors have stood up for their area and ensured this £68m programme goes ahead.”

His shadow Coun Jackie Drayton said she welcomed the fact the work would be completed in Sheffield, in spite of cuts that had been made to the programme nationally.

“We have always argued children must be taught in decent buildings and it is right the previous Labour Government created the Building Schools for the Future Programme to address this,” she added. But £8m earmarked for Sheffield primary schools next year had been axed.

Meadowhead and Westfield have already been rebuilt - but their IT systems are to be improved as part of the programme.

Sheffield had been told to submit cheaper rebuild plans by the end of November that included ‘significant savings’.

Dr Sharp said it was clear the city was at such an advanced stage of the programme it would be very difficult to make substantial savings.

Sheffield and Barnsley both escaped cuts to their BSF programmes for the same reason after the Coalition took charge last summer - while schemes in Rotherham and Doncaster were scrapped.