Schools building project £18m short

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A BLACK hole has appeared in the finances of an ambitious programme to rebuild Sheffield’s secondary schools.

Sheffield Council officers say there is an ‘£18.3 million gap’ in cash for the Government-funded Building Schools for the Future scheme - set to be completed by September 2014 at a cost of almost £150 million.

Work is ongoing at sites including Bradfield, City, Handsworth Grange, King Edward VII, Birley Community College and Stocksbridge High.

The details are revealed in a report about Sheffield Council’s building programme over the next 12 months.

Officers revealed the funding gap had grown from a forecast £15.4 million last year due to highways works which were supposed to have been funded from a different source that did not materialise.

But none of the school rebuilding projects is at risk.

The council plans to resolve the problem by taking £600,000 from its schools reserve account and give the building scheme the first call on any future capital receipts from sale of council land or property.

“The balance should be funded from borrowing,” the report adds.

The report also reveals the council’s other major capital project - the £700 million Decent Homes scheme to modernise all 42,000 council houses - will be completed in 2013/14 - four years late.

The project was hit by a funding shortage because officials counted on some of the money coming from the sale of houses under the Right to Buy scheme.

But the recession led to fewer houses being sold, which meant that as well as having less money, there were more properties to modernise.

The council plans to modernise 803 of the remaining properties during the coming 12 months and the remainder - around 500 - the following year.

Other capital projects planned for next year include renewing 2,500 central heating systems in council houses and providing free insulation to council homes through the Affordable Warmth scheme, which is being wound down due to the end of Government funding.