Schools in Leeds need at least £66m worth of repairs due to 'continued deterioration'
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But the Department of Education (DfE) has been criticised for giving Leeds City Council just £6m-a-year to tackle the backlog, with the authority’s deputy leader saying school buildings faced “many issues”.
The works, none of which are related to the Raac (reinforced autoclave areated concrete) issues publicised in recent weeks, concern many of the 143 schools in Leeds run by the council.
The DfE said it was investing heavily in rebuilding schools across the country.
But speaking at a meeting of the council’s executive board on Wednesday, the authority’s portfolio holder for education, Jonathan Pryor, said the £66m figure was a “conservative” estimate.
A council report on the issue said inflation and the “continued deterioration” of some buildings meant the real cost is likely to be far higher.
Councillor Pryor said: “For this we’re given around £6m-a-year so that’s less than 10 per cent of the need.
“I know the issues around Raac are very high on people’s agenda, but I’m clear that I think the debate around school condition funding needs to be much wider than that.
“Raac and concrete is only one of many issues which schools are facing.”
“I will be writing to the DfE for a ninth time to ask they properly fund school repairs and I look forward to [Education Secretary] Gillian Keegan’s response.”
But Councillor Alan Lamb, leader of the authority’s Conservative opposition told the meeting: “Rather than turning this into a political football, we all need to take a breath here and accept that governments of all colours over many years prioritised trying to build things very quickly and cheaply, and that weren’t built to last.”
“There are many examples of buildings from the ’60s, where the race to deliver stuff fast has resulted in poor quality housing and schools. It’s going to be the same in the private sector.”
Responding to Councillor Pryor’s comments, a spokesperson for the DfE said on Thursday: “We have allocated over £15 billion to improve the school estate since 2015, including £1.8 billion committed in 2023-24.
“As part of this, Leeds (Council) has been allocated almost £6.9 million to invest in its maintained schools this year alone, with an additional £1.38 million allocated directly to its schools.
“This comes on top of the School Rebuilding Programme which is transforming 500 schools over this decade, including seven schools in the Leeds area.”