Future of new Leeds school is hanging in the balance

SAGA: Sofia Desaraju, then aged 4, joins a protest outside Leeds Civic Hall over school places blackhole. back in 2015. PIC: James Hardisty
SAGA: Sofia Desaraju, then aged 4, joins a protest outside Leeds Civic Hall over school places blackhole. back in 2015. PIC: James Hardisty
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The future of a new primary to tackle a school places “black hole” in Roundhay hangs in the balance as a senior councillor admitted there was a chance the Government could pull out of the project.

Councillor Lisa Mulherin, executive member for children and families at Leeds City Council, revealed she has asked officers to look for an “alternative permanent solution” amid fears the agencies involved could “wash their hands” of the scheme completely.

Earlier this month the Yorkshire Evening Post revealed that the Government’s Education and Skills Funding Agency (EFSA), the body that had been in charge of Roundhay Park Primary School, is handing responsibility over to the local authority to move the project forward itself.

But while crunch talks are continuing, with the city council attempting to establish exactly what this means in terms of funding, Coun Mulherin expressed fears the project could fall through, as the authority could not afford to take it forward. She said: “We completely understand why parents in the Roundhay area are concerned. We share their frustration.

“I have asked officers to look at creative and innovative ways of delivering a permanent solution for school places in the Roundhay area, should the Government wash their hands of the project completely.

“There is a sense they may walk away from it.”

However, Coun Mulherin promised parents that although the council’s hands were tied when it came to delivering a new school, “quality places” would still be provided.

She said: “We will not walk away from the parents of Roundhay. We will deliver good quality places for children.

“It can’t be right that central Government have got the monopoly over school building and when things get too difficult for them, they then leave it to the local authority to pick up the pieces. We are already overspent on our budget.”

Coun Mulherin said she expected to know more by the autumn.

Damian Nicholls, a member of campaign group Fair Access, said the council also had to take some responsibility as it had failed to find a suitable site.

“The next few months are make or break to be honest. If it falls through, I have no idea what the solution will be,” he said.

COUNCIL IS BLAMED FOR HOLD UP

Ministers last year gave a new free school the go-ahead to open this September, but there have been issues with the preferred location.

A source said the EFSA had supported two sites –including land off the ring road at Roundhay Park Lane East – but the council deemed them unsuitable. It said the authority then consulted on four sites, including the two originally put foward by the EFSA, before suggesting the ring road site was the most likely to secure planning. The source said given the time spent, and the fact the council owns the land, the EFSA believed the council was in the best position to secure planning, which is why is would only provide funding if the council agreed to self-delivery.

Ian Beaumont of KPMG

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